The Weaving Art Museum is extremely fortunate to have this collection on loan and available for exhibition. It has been assembled over the past 25 years and is the best holding of these rare masterpiece examples known. As a group they demonstrate the continuity of a textile tradition more than 1000 years old. Proof of this is again presented here for the first time with the identification of a 5-8th century AD Coptic period shirt-front, illustrated here as Plate One, incorporating the same technique of bent metal-foil decoration.

All the major designs were done in woolen thread chain-stitch embroidery, the foil metal-work limited to two types of crosses in several different sizes reserved for secondary background design. It is interesting to note how these same crosses were retained on many of these later Asyute shawls. The long history this Egyptian textile technique can now claim again illustrates the cohesive and retentive nature of indigenous weaving cultures and their uncanny ability to preserve ancient iconography.

Each one of the 20 Asyute pictured here is a masterpiece and quite easily distinguished from the smaller-sized and lesser quality ones produced to satisfy foreign commercial demands. These forces began to manifest during the last quarter of the 19th century and until now this time period was also believed to be when Asyute production was initiated. But it is now obvious the roots of this technique are much older, at least 1,000 years. In light of this fact the existence of an earlier Asyute Shawl tradition is possible and highly likely.

Judging their quality, unlike their age, is provable and even though there are a number of differences in the range of known types for the purposes of this presentation only two will be considered-masterpiece and all others of lesser