Excavations, Fag el-Gamous, Textiles


Excavations at the Fag el-Gamous necropolis have unearthed a unique collection of textile fragments, among which are some beautifully dyed pieces, including several featuring purple threads. The purple threads used in the textiles come in a variety of hues, suggesting different dye sources for the threads. In the ancient world, the source for true, enduring purple dye came from the sea snail, Murex. This dye was highly prized, very expensive, and was frequently used for royal garments. Because of its desirable nature, purple dye was frequently imitated with mixtures of blue and red dyes, such as indigo (plant genus Indigofera) for blue and madder (plant genus Rubia) for red or cochineal (insect family Margarodidae). Due to the variety of hues present in [page 208] this collection, it seems likely that the people using the cemetery at Fag el-Gamous were using imitation purple for their garments. This project determined what, if any, proportion of true purple was used in the textiles recovered from the necropolis and how the presence (or absence) of true purple informs our understanding of the ancient Egyptian population that used this cemetery.

Original Publication Citation

"They’ll Never Be Royals, the ‘Purple’ Textiles of Fag el-Gamous,” in Excavations at Fag el-Gamous and the Seila Pyramid, Kerry Muhlestein, editor in chief, Krystal V. L. Pierce and Bethany Jensen, eds., Harvard Egyptological Studies vol. 7. (Leiden: Brill, 2020), 207-248.

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Book Chapter

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Religious Education


Ancient Scripture

University Standing at Time of Publication

Full Professor