historic textiles from Karanis
The Cloth Artifacts
Textiles and the Archaeology of Karanis
Where the Textiles were Found
Case 6
An Important Find Site: House 124
texts about textiles

Case 6: Three Find Sites

Case 6

Layer A, Area 200

This area is identified as a large “rubbish heap.” In it were found artifacts in a variety of materials, including a pottery spindle whorl, glass sherds, beads, a bronze ring, ostraca and papyri (writing materials), and a palm nut. Also found were thirty-eight small and fragmentary cloth artifacts, most of which show traces of extensive use and mending. The cloth artifacts are of various colors, patterns and techniques, and conditions, including one item identified as a “rag doll.”

Below the Surface:
Layer B, Structure 36

A similar “rag doll” was found in the B layer, in unit 36, a structure that is neither located on any maps or publications nor characterized as a locus in the expedition records. It is possible that neither of these cloth figures is a doll intended for play. Typically dolls have recognizable features. The doll in the photograph at right represents a swaddled infant, with hair of multicolored wool, a face of minimally painted bone, and body (an undecorated extension of the head) enveloped in a bundle of small rags.

Below the Surface:
Layer C, House 88

This unit is locatable on maps and identified in records as a multi-roomed house. Cloth artifacts were found in interior rooms C and K. The tiny pendant attachments (note holes at center) may have been purely ornamental in nature. They appear to combine linen and wool threads and thus probably were not wound for sewing. The excavators suggested that the pendants served as amulets, perhaps because they are not wound tightly or carefully enough to serve decorative or utilitarian purposes. The decorative motifs of the colorful cut-pile rug have not yet been identified.

Karanis, 25-200D, R
Kelsey Museum, 13393

Cloth figurine
Karanis, 26-B36A-J, R
Kelsey Museum, 26413

Cut pile
Karanis, 28-C88C-P, R
Kelsey Museum, 22594

Striped fragment
Karanis, 25-200D, R
Kelsey Museum, 13375

Pendant attachments
Karanis, 28-C88C-C1
Kelsey Museum, 22563

Striped fragment
Karanis, 24-200D, R
Kelsey Museum, 13379
Decorated fragment
Karanis, 25-200D, R
Kelsey Museum, 10532
Decorated fragment
Karanis, 25-200D, R
Kelsey Museum, 13376
Papyrus figurine
Karanis, 25-200-X-A, R
Kelsey Museum, 3647



26. Cap, KM 13393 27. Striped fragment, KM 13375 28. Striped fragment, KM 13379 29. Decorated fragment, KM 10532 31. Papyrus figurine, KM 3647 32. Cloth figurine, KM 26413 30. Decorated fragment, KM 13376 33. Cut pile, KM 22594 34. Pendant attachments, KM 22563