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Overview of Fashion - IMPORTANCE OF CLOTHING., EVIDENCE FROM ART., TYPES AND ADORNMENTS.

tomb egyptian king ancient

In ancient Egypt cloth was one of the major commodities, along with bread and beer, used in place of money in barter transactions. Cloth making was a labor-intensive activity before the invention of mechanical spinning machines and looms, so it was not uncommon for the average person to have only one or two sets of clothing to last them through the years. Thus the amount of clothing a person owned was a key indicator of status and wealth among the Egyptians. For example, the tomb of King Tutankhamun (r. 1332–1322 B.C.E. ) contained hundreds of garments. But even upper class, non-royal tombs included cloth. The tomb of princess Hatneferet and vizier (high-ranking government official) Ramose, who died during the reign of Hatshepsut (1478–1458 B.C.E. ), contained 76 sheets, one old shirt, eighteen shawls, fourteen sheets of linen, and shrouds, in addition to vast quantities of other clothing. The clothing scholar Gillian Eastwood-Vogelsang speculated that the clothing in tombs could have been equivalent in worth to gold to this ancient society, and was often a motivating factor for tomb robbers.

EVIDENCE FROM ART.

The evidence that can be gleaned from art about ancient Egyptian clothing is distorted by artistic conventions, though it is useful for discovering the way clothing was worn and how it changed over time. Artists were often conservative in their depictions of the deceased, showing people in older fashions that they might rarely have worn in life in order to preserve art’s magical function in tomb decoration. Artists also neglected to depict the changes from work clothes to home clothes for workers. There is no indication in art that different clothes were worn in different seasons and at different times of day. Tomb owners, in general, were always depicted in their best clothing in tomb scenes. Furthermore, scholars sometimes disagree on how to interpret the clothing worn in a work of art. For example, a statue of a First-dynasty king depicts the king wearing a cloak that can be described as embroidered, quilted, or knitted. Each of these terms implies a different technique and suggests different degrees of sophistication in the production of clothing. Comparing archaeological examples of clothing to art, it seems to be true that Egyptian fashion changed slowly. The New Kingdom (1539–1075 B.C.E. ) was one brief period during ancient Egyptian history when paintings depict changes in fashion. However, from the Predynastic (beginning in 4400 B.C.E. ) to the Ptolemaic Period (ending in 30 B.C.E. ) basic everyday wear did not appear to change significantly. In the archaeological record, Egypt displays a surprising lack of class-consciousness in clothing styles. Evidence shows that King Tutankhamun dressed similarly to his subjects. The bag tunic, for example, was a common garment for both kings and commoners, though there were considerable differences in the quality of fabrics. In art, however, priests and kings wear occupational clothing while performing their duties.

TYPES AND ADORNMENTS.

Egyptian clothing is divided into two main categories. One category—wraparound clothing—used a length of cloth that the wearer draped on the body. The second category—cut-to-shape garments—were either triangular or rectangular pieces of cloth with sewn edges. These categories are difficult to recognize in the archaeological record. Wraparound clothing found in tombs often resembles bedsheets. Only careful examination of fold marks reveals the way large pieces of textiles were actually used. Garments cut-to-shape that archaeologists have discovered in tombs are easy to recognize yet are not often represented in the artistic record. Headgear such as crowns and kerchiefs and jewelry were as equally important as clothing in ancient Egyptian fashion. These adornments often conveyed a message through symbolism and magically protected the wearer. Crowns and kerchiefs identified kings and the particular purpose of a statue or relief. Often, for example, a pair of royal statues depicted the king with the red crown of Lower Egypt and the white crown of Upper Egypt. This pair of statues would then convey the message that the king ruled the whole country. Jewelry could be a means of displaying wealth but also protected the wearer. Amulets worn suspended from chains around the neck were a major source of divine protection in daily life for an Egyptian.

Overview of Literature - LONG TRADITION., LOSS AND RECOVERY., NOT MUCH EVIDENCE., LIMITED INTERPRETATIONS., TYPES OF LITERATURE. [next] [back] Overview of Dance - DEFINITION., SOURCES., DANCERS., SEGREGATED DANCING., MUSIC., COSTUMES., IMPORTANCE.

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