About this object

It’s unusual for any clothing a pharaoh wore to have survived and this is one of the finest textiles from the ancient world. It was discovered in Thebes and collected by Rev. Henry Stobart on his tour of Egypt in 1854-5. Cartouches of Ramesses III were inscribed in ink on two faces of the plain linen at one end but this is now almost completely destroyed (Stobart's 1855 catalogue has a copy of the text as it was when in his possession). Originally described as a ‘linen belt’ but since at least 1913 it has been called the ‘Ramesses Girdle’. Paintings of Ramesses III show him wearing similar long lengths of cloth wrapped several times around the chest in a herringbone fashion, like a girdle, before being fastened around the waist. The girdle is woven from linen and decorated with rows of ankh signs, a hieroglyph used to write the word for ‘life’. As a piece of clothing it provided upper body support and encircled the pharaoh with life-giving protection in the battlefield.

The girdle is a warp-faced braid linen sash with an intricate weave structure producing a pattern of zig-zags, dots and rows of ankh signs in five colours. It measures 5.2 metres in length and tapers from 127 to 48 mm in width. This tapering is achieved by taking out bunches of unbleached threads from the centre at regular intervals and ensuring that the warp ends per cm remain the same. At the wider end a simple narrow, warp-faced band has been attached to provide loops for a means of fastening. At the narrow end, the remaining warp ends have been plaited. There has been debate as to how the girdle was woven but in 1982 Peter Collingwood demonstrated that it could not have been produced by tablet weaving and was most likely to have been made by a double weave technique. In 1912 the weave structure was analysed by Thorold Lee, who was head of a firm of specialist weavers in Birkenhead. It consists of 1689 warp ends arranged with a patterned border of 657 ends; a centre section of 360 unbleached ends a further patterned border of 672 ends. The fine tightly plied linen is in blue, red, yellow, green and natural flax. There is a subtle use of colour in that only eight of the warp ends are green and 24 are yellow; the majority of the warp being blue and unbleached. The yarn is described as three-ply having a count of about 105 lea linen (‘lea’ is the number of yards in a pound of linen divided by 300). In 1923 Grace Crowfoot reproduced a small portion of the girdle on a primitive ground loom that she had constructed and estimated that the whole girdle would have taken three to four months to weave. Mrs Gertrud Staudigel-Scharlau visited Liverpool in 1930 and made a full copy of it which is now in the Leipzig Museum of Ethnography (Museum für Völkerkunde zu Leipzig).

Object specifics

  • Type
    Textile/Clothing
  • Culture
    New Kingdom
  • Artist/Maker
    Unknown or unrecorded
  • Place made
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt
  • Date made
    1185 BC (Dynasty 20: Reign of Ramesses III)
  • Materials
    Fibre Textile Linen
  • Location
    Item not currently on display
  • Acquisition
    Gift of Joseph Mayer
  • Collector
    Joseph Mayer
  • Place collected
    Africa: Northern Africa: Egypt: Thebes
  • Date collected
    1855
  • Measurements
    installation: 65 mm x 920 mm x 920 mm
  • Related people
    Joseph Mayer (Collector, previous owner); Henry Rev Stobart (Collector, previous owner)

Where is this object from?

Explore related

Publications

  • 'A Weaving Mystery: or New Light on an Old Girdle' in Quarterly Journal of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers volume 50

    Seagroatt, Margaret

    Author: Seagroatt, Margaret
    Publisher: Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers
    Date: 1964
    Description: 3 page article about the Rameses Girdle (M11156).

  • 'Braid-Weaving Techniques in Ancient Egypt', in Liverpool Bulletin volume 10, 1961-62

    Crowfoot, Elizabeth

    Author: Crowfoot, Elizabeth
    Publisher: Libraries, Museums and Arts Committee of the Corporation of Liverpool
    Date: 1962
    Description: This short 4 page article is a reply to Mr Otfried Staudigel's claim that the Ramesses girdle was tablet woven which was published in volume 9 of the 'Liverpool Bulletin' under the title "Tablet Waeving in Ancient Egypt".

  • 'Combining Weaving on a Treadle Loom with Tablet Waeving' in Quarterly Journal of the Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers volume 62

    Ruzius van Minegen, G.

    Author: Ruzius van Minegen, G.
    Publisher: Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers
    Date: 1967-06
    Description: A letter wriiten to the journal about how the author experimented to make a replica of the patterns that appear on the Ramesses Girdle (M11156).

  • 'Der sogenannte Ramsesgürtel: ein Meisterwerk uralter Brettchenwebkunst' in Deutsche Frauenkultur volume 35

    Krause, Fritz

    Author: Krause, Fritz
    Publisher: Zeitchrift des verbandes Deutsche Frauenkultur
    Date: 1931
    Description: 7 page article, "The so-called Ramses belt: a masterpiece of ancient tablet weaving", about the Rameses Girdle (M11156).

  • Die Kleider des Pharaos

    Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian

    Author: Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian
    Publisher: Kestner-Museum/Batavian Lion
    Date: 1995
    Description:

  • Egyptian Antiquities collected on a voyage made in Upper Egypt in the years 1854 & 1855 and published by Revd. H. Stobart, M.A., Queen's College Oxford.

    Stobart, Henry

    Author: Stobart, Henry
    Publisher: Benj. Duprat, and F. Scheider & Co.,
    Date: 1855
    Description: Egyptian Antiquities collected on a voyage made in Upper Egypt in the years 1854 & 1855 and published by Revd. H. Stobart, M.A., Queen's College Oxford. Paris chez Benj. Duprat, Rue du Cloitre-St. Benoit 7. Berlin chez F. Schneider & Co. Unter den Linden 19. 1855. Värsch & Happe, liogr. fac-sim. under the direction of Dr. H. Brugsch, Berlin.

  • Egyptian Textiles

    Hall, Rosalind

    Author: Hall, Rosalind
    Publisher: Shire Publications Ltd.
    Date: 1986
    Description:

  • Gifts of The Nile: Ancient Egyptian Arts and Crafts in Liverpool Museum

    Bienkowski, Piotr; Tooley, Angela

    Author: Bienkowski, Piotr; Tooley, Angela
    Publisher: Her Majesty's Stationery Office
    Date: 1995
    Description: A 130 page illustrated book that focuses on the Egyptian antiquities in World Museum's collections to provide a colourful introduction to the land and its culture in the Pharaonic period. An appendix explains the history of the collection and includes information about the Lady Lever Art Gallery Egyptian collection, which is also part of National Museums Liverpool.

  • Le Tissage aux Cartons et son Utilisation Décorative dans l'Égypte Ancienne

    Arnold van Gennep and Gustave Jéquier

    Author: Arnold van Gennep and Gustave Jéquier
    Publisher: Delachaux & Niestlé s.a
    Date: 1916
    Description: 'Le Tissage aux Cartons et son Utilisation Décorative dans l'Égypte Ancienne' was published in 1916, and some of its conclusions, including those about the Ramesses Girdle (M11156) in the chapter called "L'Écharpe du Musée de Liverpool dite ceinture de Ramsès III" created considerable controversy. The book describes and categorises many decorative motifs from Egyptian tombs, statues, and paintings. The authors consider whether the patterns represent cardwoven bands; and provide instructions for creating many of the designs with cardweaving. Illustrated with 6 color plates of cardwoven bands, 6 black and white plates, and 135 line drawings. This book is available online at this link http://www.cs.arizona.edu/patterns/weaving/books/vga_card_2.pdf

  • Pharaonic Egyptian Clothing (Studies in Textile and Costume History, Vol. 2)

    Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian

    Author: Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian
    Publisher: Brill Academic Publishing
    Date: 1993
    Description: A guide to the identification of everyday Pharanoic Egyptian clothing.

  • 'Textiles' in Paul Nicholson and Ian Shaw (eds.) Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology'

    Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian

    Author: Vogelsang-Eastwood, Gillian
    Publisher: Cambridge University Press
    Date: 2000
    Description:

  • 'The Linen Girdle of Rameses III', in Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology, vol. 5 nos. 1 and 2 pp. 84-96

    Lee, Thorold

    Author: Lee, Thorold
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 1913
    Description:

  • The Pharaoh: Life at Court and on Campaign

    Shaw, Garry J.

    Author: Shaw, Garry J.
    Publisher: Thames and Hudson
    Date: 2012
    Description:

  • 'The Rameses Girdle - a weaving marvel' on The Journal for Weavers, Spinners and Dyers, vol. 230 Summer 2009, pp.22-26

    Foulkes, Susan J.

    Author: Foulkes, Susan J.
    Publisher: Association of Guilds of Weavers, Spinners and Dyers
    Date: 2009
    Description:

  • 'The so-called Ramses Girdle' in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology vol. XIX, Parts II & IV

    Peet, Eric T.

    Author: Peet, Eric T.
    Publisher: The Egypt Exploration Society
    Date: 1933-11
    Description: An 7 page article in the Journal of Egyptian Archaeology, vol. XIX

  • Transactions of the Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire volume 10 (1857 – 1857)

    Author:
    Publisher: Historic Society of Lancashire and Cheshire
    Date: 1858
    Description: There is a PDF of the journal online http://www.hslc.org.uk/documents/PDFS/1857-1858.pdf For all issues see http://www.hslc.org.uk/Search-Journals?volume=1

  • 'Were the Ancient Egyptians Conversant With Tablet-Weaving (Brettchenweberei, Tissage aux Cartons)? , in Liverpool Annals of Archaeology and Anthropology, vol. 10 pp. 7-20

    Crowfoot, Grace and H. Ling Roth

    Author: Crowfoot, Grace and H. Ling Roth
    Publisher: Liverpool University Press
    Date: 1923
    Description:

Events

  • Loan to Whitworth Art Gallery

    Start date: 1951-11-24
    End date: 1951-11-24
    Description: The Rameses Girlde was on loan at the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester, for a textile exhibition organised by Miss Margaret Pilkington (Honorary Director of the Whitworth Art Gallery). A letter from Miss Tankard (Keeper of Archaeology at Liverpool Museums) to Mr J. F. Clark (City Analyst, Liverpool) on 29 June 1951 records, "The Girdle will probably be better for a change of air, but I shall treat it with thymol before I let it go ...the thymol cannot do any harm".

  • De Kleren van de farao

    Start date: 1994
    End date: 1994
    Description: An exhibition about textiles and clothing in Ancient Egypt organised by the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden. Opened in Leiden and then travelled to Denmark and Germany. Loan no. AE LO 26193

Ownership

Previous owners

  • Joseph Mayer

    Owned from: 1857
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1867
    Disposal method: Donated
  • Henry Rev Stobart

    Owned from: 1855
    How acquired: Purchased
    Owned until: 1857
    Disposal method: Sold
Object view = Humanities
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