cult kelim plate 1
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PLATE ONE

Unlike the other other archaeological textiles pictured in these pages, this example has a positive provenance and can be accurately dated into the period between 1453-1405 BC. It bears the cartouche of the Egyptian king Amenhopt II (1450-1415 BC) and was recovered from the tomb of Thotmes IV (1415-1405), his successor. Along with this slit-tapestry, two other much smaller fragments were recovered and one, which has the Ka-name of Thotmes III (1504-1450 BC), predates by a generation this example.

Here we see an all-over design of eight rows of lotus flowers alternating with papyrus blooms. On the left side a border of lotus flowers and buds and on the right a double row of half circles. In the lower left corner of the field’s all-over pattern, a large hieroglyphic inscription provides the name of Amenhotp II.  His prenomen is contained within the cartouche and on either side are crowned uraei. On the left the uraeus wears the red crown of lower Egypt and on the right the white crown (outlined in red) of upper Egypt.  Above the cartouche are given the titles of king.

It has been included here for several reasons not the least of which is the precise provenance it carries and the historical perspective it lends to kelim weaving. Its iconography is naturalistic, rendering only exact representations of flowers or script while the other fragments illustrated here contain far more abstraction and seem to be unrelated.

Yet there could be some stylistic relationship between it and the illustration chosen for the logo of this exhibition. The two rows of spiral shaped designs placed under the two horsemen figures might just recall the rows of lotus flowers seen here. But the reason for their truncated or half form, like the semi-circles in the right border of the Amenhotp II textile, must for now remain unknown. In any event the regenerative quality of the lotus was not lost on these weavers and their placement on these two weavings was surely purposefully designated.

Both of these textiles are fragments and as such their original purpose has been obscured.  But the existence of the original side finish and more complete form of Amenthop II's textile suggest an interesting possibility. It has often been referred to as part of a garment but its size and slit tapestry construction more imply to this writer that it was used as a ceremonial apron - a decorative garment in its own right. The large area of red staining on the lower portion may prove to be blood. If so, this may indicate the weaving was used by Amenthop II to keep his other dress clean during ceremonies of sacrifice or perhaps he used it as a tissue or cloth to remove the blood from the knife or other instruments used for such acts.

Regardless of what Amenhopt II did with this finely woven textile, one fact is clear, his descendant Thotmes IV wanted it in his burial chamber.   Why?  Being the King of all Egypt, he could take into his tomb whatever he wished and the inclusion of this fragmented and stained cloth verifies its importance and spiritual power. Patterned slit-tapestry textiles were extremely rare during this period and his wish to take this sacrificial cloth and another tiny remnant distinguished by with the Ka-name of his grandfather, Thotmes III, with him in death surely perpetrates this conclusion.

Needless to say, this is a very important textile and its skilled demonstration of slit-tapestry weaving more than 1400 years before the birth of Christ documents the long history of the kelim weaving technique and indicates an even earlier, and most probably, prehistoric origin.

Bibliography

cult kelim plate 1

 

cult kelim plate 2

 

cult kelim plate 3


 

cult kelim plate 4

 

cult kelim plate 5

 

cult kelim plate 6

 

cult kelim plate 7

 

cult kelim plate 8

 

cult kelim plate 9

 


 

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