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Coptic Fabric

Coptic Fabric

Inv. N. CE2/01715

This Coptic fabric is made of wool and is decorated in strips, the central strip being wider than the two either side. The wide strip is decorated with a pattern of human figures influenced by the Oriente province. The design is repeated on the narrower strips with animal forms instead of human forms. It is dated between the 3rd and 6th centuries.

The term ‘Coptic’ derives from the Greek word ‘Aigyptios’, which means ‘Egyptian’, later shortened to ‘Kuptios’ by the Copts themselves. This latter term passed to Arabic as ‘Qubt’ and from this to the Castilian, ‘Copto’. The Copts were Christians who lived in Egyptian lands when this religion was introduced into the area in the 4th century. Evidence of Coptic art and culture is in the form of textiles. Coptic fabric was mainly made of linen and wool and occasionally silk. The linen cloth was adorned with tapestry containing woollen wefts of different colours; this was either interwoven of applied directly on top. The majority of Coptic fabrics were used for clothing but were also used to make funeral cushions for the head and feet of the deceased. Decoration moved from figurative expression, of Hellenistic influence, towards geometric design and style. In the iconography of Coptic fabrics, we find themes taken from Greco-Roman mythology, (Bacchus, putti, Nereid, Nile scenes) and figurative or symbolic Christian themes such as the cross, the Chi-Rho symbol, the fish or the alpha and omega.

The museum has 12 pieces of Coptic fabric in total.

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