Social Fabrics: Inscribed Textiles from Medieval Egyptian Tombs

January 22, 2022–May 8, 2022, University Research Gallery, Harvard Art Museums

Discover what textiles made and worn in medieval Egypt tell us about connection and belonging in a diversifying world.

From swaddling newborns to enshrouding the deceased, woven fabrics touch nearly every aspect of human existence. The textiles in this exhibition are particularly meaningful, for they tell a bigger story about political and social power, class, trade, and concerns for the afterlife during a transformative period in Egyptian history. In the medieval era, control of the region shifted repeatedly, as Egypt was subsumed under a sequence of empires—Byzantine, Umayyad, Abbasid, and Fatimid—and the majority religion gradually evolved from pagan to Christian to Muslim. The textiles in Social Fabrics record the material and cultural impacts of these transitions, including the exchange of weaving and embroidery techniques, the availability of new fabrics and fibers, and interactions among people of different faiths.

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