Historic Textiles from Karanis
texts about textiles
Texts from Karanis
Highlighted Texts
Cloth Goods


Decorated Sleeve Cuff

Decorated Sleeve Cuff
Kelsey Museum, 94502
Karanis, 27-CA20

Tapestry-woven in undyed linen and dyed wools, this piece would have decorated the cuff of the sleeve of a tunic. Try to decipher the involved pattern composed of stripes, bands of pearls, vines and roundels, six-lobed lozenges, and ducks(?). Crosses mark the beginning of the composition. When complete, crosses would have marked the end of this symmetrical composition as well. The piece is very worn and has been mended: it is crudely attached by large stitches to another piece of plain-woven undyed linen.

The texts in this section provide evidence for how cloth goods came to be made and acquired. The production of intricately patterned textiles and other high-quality cloth goods required skilled artisans who were trained within a venerable apprenticeship system. In fact, the textile shown here was found with an official apprenticeship contract (see the first text in this section, P. Mich Inv. 5191). That contract and another text in this section, a tax document that mentions a tax on weavers, are strong indications of a well-organized, profitable profession. Another contract records the case of a woman who will weave and carry out other household tasks, not as a professional but as an indentured servant. Hiring a weaver was one way to get cloth goods made in the home. Another option described in some texts in this section was to purchase cloth and raw materials for finishing at home. Several letters in this section tell of items being commissioned from artisans or acquired ready-made. Letters from the correspondence of a man named Apollinarius provide an example of a refined taste for expensive, imported cloth and special attention being paid to color.