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Fragment, probably of a tunic




3rd c. C.E.-present




Fragment, probably of a tunic


7th-10th c. C.E.


Linen, wool


15.5 x 14.2 cm


Gift of Mrs. George D. Pratt, inv. 1941.B.3


Archeology and World Cultures

The term “Copt” – an Arabic contraction of the Greek word aigyptios, meaning “Egyptian” – was used from the seventh century by the Arab conquerors of the country to refer to its indigenous Christian population. In art, however, the term is applied more widely to the post-Pharaonic works that, since the third century C.E., had blended Egyptian, Greco-Roman and Christian elements. The new funerary practices, which involved dressing the deceased for burial, as well as the dry climate, enabled the preservation of numerous textiles. Early twentieth-century collectors often only kept the decorated sections of tunics, shawls or hangings. Their designs, generally woven in wool on a linen base, were sometimes inspired by Greek and Roman mythology, but their stylization over centuries complicates their interpretation. Here, a haloed anthropomorphic being and a unicorn are shown within a central medallion flanked by horizontally positioned trees and sea serpents.

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