This was Ian’s second visit to the Hapy Society and this time he was really focusing on what makes Bolton Museum famous – it’s huge collection of Egyptian textiles. Surprisingly, perhaps, the textile collection at the Bolton Museum is recognised as the best collection in the world, outside Egypt! We are therefore very fortunate to be able to hear, in person, the curator of this magnificent collection.

It seems that the story of Egyptian fabric is basically the story of how Flax was used to produce linen – an extraordinarily versatile material. Linen was used by all members of society although, of course it was only the elite members of society who could use the finest examples. It still seems extraordinary that it was possible to create such fine material on very basic looms, looms which are shown in tomb art and tomb models.

Of course most of the population wore very little, partly because of the heat, but also because cloth would have been very expensive. Remarkable then that so much material was used  in the wrapping of mummies, often the wrappings being in elaborate patterns. Perhaps also noteworthy was the use of fine linen to wrap statues of the gods: Ian explained that whilst today we see just the statue, in ancient times the statues of gods would have been dressed, and when first uncovered the statues are sometimes still covered by this material  dressing. Usually, however, very little remains of this covering.

Much of what we know about clothing fashion in ancient Egypt comes, of course, from the tomb paintings, and one of the styles which fascinated us was the stiffly-starched and forward- protruding part of the kilts of nobles – often illustrated on the walls of tombs or even sculpted in statues. Why was that style, which must have been so very impractical, so popular? Or are the representations in art just symbolic of something of which we know nothing? The discussion continued during our buffet after the talk. Another topic for a Ph.D!

Our thanks to Ian for delivering a fascinating and well-presented talk.

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