Tutankhamun and Decorative Needlework (Egypt)

Detail of an appliqué and embroidered panel, from a linen garment found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, early 14th century BC. Detail of an appliqué and embroidered panel, from a linen garment found in the tomb of Tutankhamun, early 14th century BC. Photograph by Nino Monastra.

Tutankhamun was an ancient Egyptian pharaoh who reigned from approximately 1333 until 1323 BC. He became pharaoh when he was about eight years old and died at the age of about 19. He was buried with a wide range of luxury and daily life objects, including furniture, weapons, chariots, beds, chests, jewellery, perfumes, games, as well as the textiles from his wardrobe, many of which were decorated in some manner. 

The tomb of Tutankhamun was discovered in November 1922 by the British archaeologist, Howard Carter. The discovery sparked off considerable interest in all things ancient Egyptian, in many countries around the world, as well as influencing Western styles of fashion, in all its forms, for much of the 1920's.

Among the Tutankhamun textiles was a large range of garments. These included basic items such as loincloths, kilts, tunics, head coverings, shawls, priestly leopard 'skins', as well as more unusual items such as gloves, socks and symbolic wings. Some of the garments are relatively plain, such as the so-called ‘Duck’ tunic. Other items are elaborate, ceremonial pieces made of finely woven linen, notably the 'Falcon' tunic, which is worked in a tapestry weave, using extremely fine, spliced threads.

Among the textiles and garments is a number of items that were embellished with decorative needlework of various kinds. The decoration can be divided into four main groups, namely: appliqué, applied, beaded and stitched. Sometimes these techniques were combined on the same piece of work or garment.

Decorative needlework, for example, was used to embellish a child’s tunic (embroidery with an appliqué collar and applied bracteates), a larger tunic (embroidery), two pairs of wings (appliqué with some embroidery and applied bracteates), a leopard skin (appliqué, embroidery and applied bracteates), as well as beaded garments, such as an apron, skullcap and two tunics.

See also the TRC Needles entry on Ancient Egyptian stitches.


  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (1999). Tutankhamun’s Wardrobe, Rotterdam: Barjesteh and Co.
  • VOGELSANG-EASTWOOD, Gillian (2016), 'Embroideries from the tomb of Tutankhamun,' in: Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood (ed.), Encyclopedia of Embroidery from the Arab World, London: Bloomsbury Academic, pp. 51-57.


Last modified on Tuesday, 18 April 2017 13:54
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