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place at Saïs, and indeed throughout the country, at a certain period of the year, and describes the lamps used on this occasion as small vases filled with salt
A guard apparently with a lantern.
and olive oil, on which the wick
The sculptures of Tel-el-Amarna, again, represent a guard of soldiers, one of whom holds before him what appears to be a lamp, and resembles the cloth or paper lanterns so common in Egypt at the present day. celebrated for their manufacture
The Egyptians were always of linen and other cloths, and the produce of their looms was exported to, and eagerly purchased by, foreign nations. The fine linen and embroidered work, the yarn and woollen stuffs, of the upper and lower country are frequently mentioned, and were highly esteemed. Solomon purchased many of those commodities, as well as chariots and horses, from Egypt; and Chemmis, the city of Pan, retained the credit it had acquired in making linen stuffs, till about the period of the Roman conquest.
Woollen garments were chiefly used by the lower orders: sometimes also by the rich, and even by the priests, who were permitted to wear an upper robe in the form of a cloak of this material: but under garments of wool were strictly forbidden them, upon a principle of cleanliness; and as they took so much pains to cleanse and shave the body, they considered it inconsistent to adopt clothes made of the hair of animals. No one was allowed to be buried in a woollen garment, in consequence of its engendering worms, which would injure the body; nor could any priest enter a temple without taking off this part of his dress.
*See Vol. i. p. 333. Herodot. ii. 81.
The quantity of linen manufactured and used in Egypt was very great; and, independent of that made up into articles of dress, the numerous wrappers required for enveloping the mummies, both of men and animals, show how large a supply must have been kept ready for the constant demand at home, as well as for that of the foreign market.
That the bandages employed in wrapping the dead are of linen, and not, as some have imagined, of cotton, has been already ascertained by the most satisfactory tests; and though no one among the unscientific inhabitants of modern Egypt ever thought of questioning the fact, received opinion in Europe had till lately decided that they were cotton; and it was forbidden to doubt that "the bands of byssine linen," said by Herodotus to have been used for enveloping the mummies, were cotton.
The accurate experiments made, with the aid of powerful microscopes, by Mr. Bauer, Mr. Thomson, Dr. Ure, and others, on the nature of the fibres of linen and cotton threads, have shown that the former invariably present a cylindrical form, transparent, and articulated, or jointed like a cane, while the latter offer the appearance of a flat riband, with a hem or border at each edge; so that there is no possibility of mistaking the fibres of either, except, perhaps, when the cotton is in an unripe state, and the flattened shape of the centre is less apparent. The results having been found similar in every instance, and the structure of the fibres thus unquestionably determined, the threads of mummy cloths were submitted to the same test, and no exception was found to their being linen; nor were they even a mixture of linen and cotton thread.
The fact of the mummy cloths being linen is therefore decided. The name byssus, it is true, presents a difficulty; owing to the Hebrew shash being translated "byssus" in the Septuagint version, and, in our own, "fine linen;" and to shash being the name applied at this day by the Arabs to fine muslin, which is of cotton and not of linen; but as the mummy cloths said by Herodotus to be "of byssine sindon," are known to be invariably linen, the byssus cannot be cotton. Herodotus, indeed, uses the expression tree wool" to denote cotton; and Julius Pollux
adopts the same name, distinguishing it also from byssus, which he calls a species of Indian flax. The use of the two words byssus and linon presents no difficulty, since they might be employed, like our flax and linen, to signify the plant, and the substance made from it.
Cotton cloth, however, was among the manufactures of Egypt, and dresses of this material were worn by all classes. Pliny states that the Egyptian priests, though they used linen, were particularly partial to cotton robes; and "cotton garments," supplied by the government for the use of the temples, are distinctly mentioned in the Rosetta Stone. Herodotus and Plutarch affirm that linen was preferred, owing as well to its freshness in a hot climate, as to its great tendency to keep the body clean, and that a religious prejudice forbade the priests to wear vestments of any other quality; this, however, refers to the inner portion of the dress; and the prohibition of entering a temple with cotton or woollen garments led to the notion that none but linen were worn by them at any time. The same custom was adopted by the votaries of Isis, when her rites were introduced by the Greeks and Romans; and linen dresses were appropriated to those who had been initiated in the sacred mysteries.
Whatever restrictions may have been in force respecting the use of cotton among the priesthood, other individuals were permitted to consult their own choice on this point; and it was immaterial whether they preferred, during life, the coolness of flax, or the softness of cotton raiment, provided the body, after death, was enveloped in bandages of linen; and this regulation accounts for the mummy cloths of the poorest individuals being also found of that material.
It was not only for articles of dress that cotton was manufactured by the Egyptians: a great quantity was used for the furniture of their houses, the coverings of chairs and couches, and various other purposes; and a sort of cloth was made of the united filaments of flax and cotton. This is mentioned by Julius Pollux, who, after describing the cotton-plant as an Egyptian production, and stating that cloth was manufactured of the “wool of its nut," says they sometimes "make the woof of it, and the
warp of linen;" a quality of cloth still manufactured by the modern Egyptians.
From the few representations which occur in the tombs of Thebes, it has been supposed that the Egyptian looms were of rude construction, and totally incapable of producing the fine linen so much admired by the ancients; and as the paintings in which they occur were executed at a very early period, it has been conjectured that, in after times, great improvements took place in their construction. But when we consider with what simple means oriental nations are in the habit of executing the most delicate and complicated work, we cease to feel surprised at the apparent imperfection of the mechanism, or instruments, used by the Egyptians; and it is probable that their far-famed "fine linen," mentioned in Scripture, and by ancient writers, was produced from looms of the same construction as those represented in the paintings of Thebes and Eileithyias. Nor was the praise bestowed upon that manufacture unmerited; and the quality of one piece of linen found near Memphis fully justifies it, and excites equal admiration at the present day, being to the touch comparable to silk, and not inferior in texture to our finest cambric.
The mummy cloths are generally of a very coarse quality; and little attention was bestowed on the disposition of the threads, in the cloths of ordinary manufacture. Mr. Thomson, who examined many specimens of them, is of opinion that the number of threads in the warp invariably exceeded those of the woof, occasionally even by four times the quantity; and as his observations are highly interesting, I shall introduce an extract from his pamphlet on the subject.
"Of the products of the Egyptian loom, we know scarcely more than the mummy pits have disclosed to us; and it would be as unreasonable to look through modern sepulchres for specimens and proofs of the state of manufacturing art amongst ourselves, as to deduce an opinion of the skill of the Egyptians, from those fragments of cloth which envelope their dead, and have come down, almost unchanged, to our own time. The curious or costly fabrics which adorned the living, and were the pride of the industry and skill of Thebes, have perished ages ago. There
are, however, amongst these remains, some which are not unworthy of notice, which carry us back into the workshops of former times, and exhibit to us the actual labours of weavers and dyers of Egypt, more than 2000 years ago.
"The great mass of the mummy cloth, employed in bandages and coverings, whether of birds, animals, or the human species, is of coarse texture, especially that more immediately in contact with the body, which is generally impregnated with resinous or bituminous matter. The upper bandages, nearer the surface, are finer. Sometimes the whole is enveloped in a covering coarse and thick, and very like the sacking of the present day: sometimes in cloth coarse and open, like that used in our cheesepresses, for which it might easily be mistaken. In the College of Surgeons are various specimens of these cloths, some of which are very curious.
"The beauty of the texture and peculiarity in the structure of a mummy cloth given to me by Mr. Belzoni were very striking. It was free from gum, or resin, or impregnation of any kind, and had evidently been originally white. It was close and firm, yet very elastic. The yarn of both warp and woof was remarkably even and well spun. The thread of the warp was double, consisting of two fine threads twisted together. The woof was single. The warp contained 90 threads in an inch; the woof, or weft, only 44. The fineness of these materials, estimated after the manner of cotton yarn, was about 30 hanks in the pound.
"The subsequent examination of a great variety of mummy cloths showed, that the disparity between the warp and woof belonged to the system of manufacture, and that the warp generally had twice or thrice, and not seldom four times, the number of threads in an inch that the woof had: thus, a cloth containing 80 threads of warp in the inch, of a fineness of about 24 hanks in the pound, had 40 threads in the woof: another with 120 threads of warp, of 30 hanks, had 40; and a third specimen only 30 threads in the woof. These have each respectively double, treble, and quadruple the number of threads in the warp that they have in the woof. This structure, so different from modern cloth, which has the proportions nearly equal, originated, probably, in