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Characterization of Coptic Textiles: The Collection of the Textile and Clothing Museum of Barcelona

Ana Cabrera L., Museo Nacional De Artes Decorativas, Madrid, Spain, Summer Fellow 2010

During my time in residence, I focused on one aspect of my dissertation, namely the artistic aspects and decorative patterns of Coptic textiles. My dissertation explores the characterization of textile production techniques and raw materials as well as the historical, socioeconomic, and artistic contexts of the textiles. Thus, in addition to the customary formal analyses, various scientific analyses are being carried out, including the analysis of dyes and fibers using high performance liquid chromatography, scanning electron microscopy, and induced light optical microscopy. The results of this work will help us to better understand the raw materials used in Roman and Byzantine Egypt. The characterization of raw materials enables us to determine the extent of trading networks and the survival of cultural or aesthetic values despite the sociopolitical changes undergone in Egypt during antiquity and at the beginning of the Middle Ages. I also use radiocarbon dating to obtain a precise chronological context for these textiles, going beyond the traditional formal analysis for dating textile styles. Textiles with a clear archaeological context will be carefully considered, as these may enhance the knowledge of the development of these textile styles. The Barcelona museum intends to make the results of my work available to the scholarly community and beyond; after the dissertation is completed, information on the textiles studied will be available on the website of the Museu TextilI d’Indumentaria of Barcelona.

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