[ed.: Mace’s British spellings have been changed to standard American English spellings, such as “shewn”, changed to “shown”; “natrun”, to “natron”; “colour”, to “color”, etc. In order to exactly reflect Mace’s thoughts, changes have not been made to either his punctuation or his outdated, classist, and colonialist ethnographic descriptions, such as “peasant”, “Mohammedans”, and comments about the “mental untidiness” and “barbarity” of the Coptic Christians, stereotypes that are also found in eugenic thought. Mace’s footnotes were numbered, but there was not always a corresponding numbered cross-reference in the text. When the cross-reference was absent, one was inserted into the text in the place thought most appropriate for it. When Mace referenced figures and plates, he did not insert the number for the figure or plate, but left a blank space. Those omissions have been noted in the text by “–”. Plates that the editor believe reflect what Mace intended to illustrate in his plates follow this transcription. They were not inserted into his text because they are not a part of his original text.]

I The Site

Naga-ed-Dêr (the village of the monastery) is not, as its name would seem to imply, a Coptic village. It derives its name from its proximity to the Dêr, but the village itself is essentially Mohammedan, and at present has but one Coptic inhabitant. It is indeed very doubtful whether there ever was a Coptic community of any size on the east bank of the river. From the earliest times, as has been pointed out in the former volumes, the eastern desert has been used as a burial ground by the inhabitants of the Thinite nome capital on the west bank, and it is still so used by the Copts of Girga, a modern town which so far as we can judge occupies a site close to the ancient one of This. The Dêr was probably built long before the village came into being, and, as the distinctive landmark of the neighborhood, gave its name to the new Naga.

The exact date at which the site first came into Coptic use is doubtful. The earlier civilization gave us an unwritten series of graves, ranging from early prehistoric to the Twelfth Dynasty, but at this latter date, or shortly after, the site seems to have been abandoned, and later Egyptian, Ptolemaic, and Roman periods are not represented at all. The next graves that we find are Coptic and Coptic of a comparatively late date. There are three distinct cemeteries, those marked 500, 1500, and 2000 in the general plan (Pl. –). One of the burials in Cemetery 2000 contained a coin dated to the third year of Justinian (529 AD), and we may therefore, with a fair amount of probability, date the material contained in this cemetery to the latter half of the sixth century. The burials in the other two cemeteries appear from this style to belong to about the same period, but our present knowledge of the dating and range of Coptic material does not justify us in making too sure of the point. In any case the beginning of the sixth century would probably be the earliest limit to which one could assign the beginning of Coptic activity in the district.

The three cemeteries all mark sites which had been made use of many centuries before by the dynastic Egyptians; for the casual Copt, as everywhere else in Egypt, seems to have preferred an easily constructed grave in the soft ground of an old cemetery to a decently excavated one in the clean desert. All three were carpeted with Coptic burials, scattered in most promiscuous fashion, and tucked into all sorts of unrespected corners, the superstructures of the old graves being frequently cut to pieces to make room for them. Indeed it is probably to this destruction of the early dynastic superstructures by the Copts that we owe the material published in Volume II of this series. Modern plunderers had started operations on the cemeteries, but had abandoned them, thinking that the remains were all Coptic. For our present purpose there was not much of interest in Cemeteries 500 and 1500, as the graves lay close to the inundation limit, and the burials were consequently in bad condition, the wrappings having in most cases disappeared. Part of Cemetery 2000, however, lay on higher ground, and here the wrappings in many cases were almost perfectly preserved. It is with this cemetery that the present volume is chiefly concerned.

Other evidences of the activity of the Copt at this early period are to be found in plenty in the VXII dyn. rock-cut tombs. The site is an ideal one for hermit life, for the high desert cliffs come close down to the river and the recluse could pick and choose his place of retreat with the certainty of an abundant water supply. Nor did he have far to seek for a shelter, for the cliffs were honeycombed in all directions with the old rock-tombs. Many of the tombs had of course been covered over and concealed before Coptic times, but a number stood open, and these seem in every case to have been taken into use, and in the usual Coptic fashion sadly disfigured, walls being cut about to suit the convenience of the new occupant and rough graffiti scrawled in all directions.

A Sixth Century

The period between the sixth century and the building of the Dêr is a blank, nor is there any evidence as to when the modern Coptic cemetery came into use. The town of Girga which is serves is one of the most important Coptic cemeteries in Upper Egypt, and judging from the size of one cemetery it has evidently been so for a considerable time. It is curious, however, though Girga has commonly been held to derive its name from the Coptic Saint Girgis, there is yet no mention of the town or of a monastery in its immediate neighborhood in either Abû Salih (XIIIth century) or Maqrizi (XIV century). Leo Africanus on the other hand, writing in the XVI century, describes a convent of Mâri Girgis, usually supposed to have been situated at Girga, as being one of the largest and richest in Upper Egypt. “This,” he says, “was in times past a famous monastery of Christians, called after the name of S. George, and being six miles distant from Menshieh [ed.: al-Minshah]. It was inhabited by more than two hundred monks, who, enjoying large territories, possessions and revenues, showed themselves courteous and beneficial unto strangers; and the overplus of their yearly revenues was sent unto the patriarch of Cairo, who caused the same to be distributed amongst poor Christians: but about an hundred years ago, all the monks of this monastery died of a pestilence which spread itself over all the land of Egypt. Whereupon the prince of Menshieh compassed the said monastery with a wall, and erected divers houses for artificers and merchants to dwell in and being allured by the pleasant gardens situate amidst the beautiful hills, he himself with thither to inhabit: but the patriarch of the Jacobites making his moan unto the Sultan, the Sultan caused another monastery to be built in the same place, where in times past the old city stood; and assigned so much allowance thereunto, as might maintain thirty monks.”1

There are some curious discrepancies in this account. If a monastery of the size given by Africanus existed at Girga it must surely have found a place in the lists of Abu Salih and Maqrizi, and must moreover have left some trace of its presence today.

B ? Present Coptic Church in Girga

Further Girga can hardly be described as a town “situate amidst the beautiful hills.” On its west side there are about eight miles of flat cultivated land, and on the east it is washed by the river. The only way to make the place suit the description would be to supposed that the river originally ran to the west of the town, and for that we have no evidence whatever. On the whole it seems probable that the monastery2 described by Africanus was not situated at Girga, and that we must look both for a new site for the monastery and for a new derivation of the name of the town.

Before going on to deal with Cemetery 2000 we propose in the next chapter to describe the Dêr and modern Coptic cemetery. It will also be of interest to give, for comparative purposes, a short account of the burial customs of the modern Copt.

II The Dêr and Modern Cemetery

A The Dêr

The Dêr—dedicated to the Archangel Michael—consists of a complex of mudbrick buildings, the actual church, as usually in Coptic Monasteries, being surrounded and almost entirely concealed by later haphazard additions. The whole is enclosed by a wall of considerable height (see Pl. –) [ed.: see Appendix 1, Fig. 1]. At one time there was probably a community living within its precincts, but the buildings are now only used for special occasions, and are looked after by one of the villagers.

The church itself is somewhat unusual in shape, in that its greatest length is from north to south. It consists of sanctuaries, choir and narthex, and in general arrangement is very similar to the church of El Shiukh3 at Dêr abu Makar n the Wadi Natrun, though its system of roofing is different. The sanctuaries are apsidal, and are separated from the choir by a heavy wooden screen, a separate door giving entrance into each sanctuary (see Pl. – a) [ed.: see Appendix 1, Fig. 2]. The narthex is divided off from the choir by three columns, the space between the columns being filled in with a wooden screen. From these columns arches spring in all four directions to carry domes (Pl. – a and b) [ed.: see Appendix 1, Fig. 3]. At the north and south there are side aisles, the northern being open, while the southern is separated from the main body of the church by means of a screen. This probably served as the women’s place of worship. The door was, as usual, on the west side, and gave entrance into an additional domed chamber, screened off from the church, which may have served as the baptistery. There are several pictures on the sanctuary screen, but none are of any importance. One is shown on Pl. –. In the middle of the choir there hangs a glass chandelier, and before the sanctuary screen there are small hanging lamps and a number of ostrich eggs. This custom of hanging ostrich eggs in churches is common to Copt, Greek and Muslim alike, and has been variously explained. Some, more particularly the Copts, believe that the eggs are hung in the church as an aid to devotion, serving to remind the worshipper that as the ostrich mother-bird never (according to tradition) removes her eyes from the nest, so he should keep his thoughts fixed steadfastly on spiritual things.4 A simpler theory, and probably the correct one, is that the eggs were first introduced as emblems of the resurrection. As a matter of fact the veneration of ostrich eggs goes much further back than either Copt, Greek or Muslim, and has probably come down to all three from a common source. In predynastic Egyptian graves ostrich eggs are not infrequent, and in the later graves they are also occasionally found. The egg, moreover, plays a considerable part in the old Egyptian symbolism—so much so that in the later writing the word “son” is generally written with a single hieroglyphic sign, that of the egg—and it would be quite natural for the early Egyptian Christians, desiring a symbol for the resurrection, to take for the purpose an object which under the old religion had a significance that was almost exactly the same.

Structurally, the most interesting feature in the church is its system of stalactite vaulting, the pendentives here being carried out in brick instead of the usual stone. Its use, moreover, gives us an early limit of date, for stalactite vaulting was not introduced into Egypt until the 13th century (Tomb of El Shâfe‘i). Very possibly the church in its present form was built in the 14th century. It does not appear in Maqrizi’s list of churches (compiled in that century), but the fact does not necessarily preclude its existence, for the list, though comprehensive, is not exhaustive. It is more than likely, indeed, that there was a church of some kind on the site for several centuries before this. Built in over the doorway at the main entrance to the Dêr (Pl. –) [ed.: see Appendix 1, Fig. 4] there is a tombstone, dedicated to a certain Apa Enoch, which can hardly be later than 8th century, and it was probably in honor of this saint, and on the site of his tomb, that the original Dêr was built. The inscription is given in Fig. 1. For the following translation and notes I am indebted to Sir Herbert Thompson.

Jesus Christ: O holy father Michael, O holy father Girael (sic),5 all ye angels of Christ, pray6 ye7 to Christ for the soul which went to its rest on the 8th day of Mechir, which was Apa Enoch [the]8 priest.

In a large domed hall north of the church there is a well and a square Epiphany tank, and in another part of the enclosure there is a second quite modern church. No Sunday services are now held on this side of the river,9 and the Dêr is only visited on the occasion of a funeral, and at the three great yearly festivals—Christmas, Epiphany and Easter.

B The Modern Cemetery

The modern Coptic cemetery (see Pls. –), situated on the low desert just behind the Dêr, and divided into two parts by a foothill, covers a considerable extent of ground. It is much more pretentious than such cemeteries usually are, and its graves show an unusual amount of elaboration. The superstructures (see Pls. –) are all very similar in character: they consist of a long barrel-vault which covers the whole length of the grave, the arch either rising straight from the ground, or from a low platform. They are constructed of crude or baked brick. In the former case a coating of white plaster is added, covered in most instances with an elaborate painted decoration. With baked bricks plaster is as a rule considered superfluous, but a very effective design is sometimes produced by building the bricks on a zig-zag, and picking out the alternate courses with white. The graves in every case run east-west. On many of these superstructures we get an interesting survival of the old “false door” and place of offerings in the shape of a panel of inscription—sometimes a tablet in a regular recess—which records the name of the deceased and the date of his death, and concludes in most cases with a pious admonition to the passerby. These are almost always at the west end of the southern side. Some of the graves have one or more additional recesses, but the tablets in these—usually of wood—seem to be more in the nature of ornament. The inscriptions are almost always in Arabic. Three are given on Pl. – [ed.: NED-C-8552?], and read as follows:—

  1. “(The tomb is a door through which all must pass. Death is a) cup which his drained by all. This world should be a world of worship … Remember, O Lord, thy servant Gergis Yusef, son of …, in the bosom of our blessed Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, in the chorus of the living, in the Paradise of Bliss, Amen. In the year 1586 Coptic.”

    If we take the usual Coptic dating—i.e. from the beginning of the reign of Diocletian—this gives us AD 1870 for the date of the grave.

  2. “O thou who passest by my tomb, be not amazed at my condition. Yesterday I was even like unto thee, and in time thou shalt be like me. Remember, O Lord, thy servant Gergis Simon in the bosom of thy Saints. In the year 1309(?) Arabic.”

    It is very unusual for Copts to date from Hegira. If our date is right this tomb was made in 1891.

It is impossible to say when this cemetery first came into use. Graves such as these very quickly fall into decay and leave no trace behind them, and it is probable that few, if any of the superstructures now standing go back more than a hundred years. It is only reasonable, however, to assume that the cemetery is at least as old as the Dêr, and may very likely be older.

C Modern Coptic Burial Customs

The burial customs of modern Copts are in many ways very similar to those of his ancestor of the sixth century, and this fact gives us an excuse, if excuse be needed, for a short account of what might otherwise seem somewhat outside the scope of the present volume. It will be interesting to note the changes which thirteen hundred years have produced, and to see whether the change is greater or less than that of any similar period in Egyptian history. Naturally customs vary a little in different part of the country, and the following account of practices used now in Girga will be of most interest in this connection.

The burial pits are about a meter and a half deep, with a chamber on one side, or sometimes on each side, just high enough to take the burial.10 These chambers are subsequently bricked up, the pit is filled, and the superstructure built directly over it. Like the early burials the pits run E-W. The bodies are prepared for burial almost immediately after death, and are almost always buried on the day of death. They are clothed in a shirt and drawers of white cloth, made specially for the occasion. They are then placed on a wide shawl which is folded over them. Ordinarily a single cotton shawl is considered sufficient, but richer people sometimes have two or more shawls, the inner one being of silk. The shawls are tied with strips of cotton round the feet, never with rope. The body thus prepared is carried to the grave on a wooden bier,11 covered with a pall, black for a woman or priest, white for a man.12 The funeral is attended by the men friends and relations: women never go to funerals, and only visit the cemetery three times in the year, at the great festivals. No chant of any kind is sung during the funeral procession. Arrived at the grave the body is placed in the chamber in a recumbent position, legs and arms straight, head west, turned slightly over on the side to face north.13 Wooden headrests are sometimes used, and occasionally a piece of money is placed in the right hand, but otherwise there are no burial deposits of any kind.

On the three yearly festivals—Christmas, Epiphany and Easter—all the Copts, men, women and children, who can possible arrange to do so spend the night and greater part of the day on the cemetery, the only exceptions being those in whose families there has been a recent death. Provisions are brought which are distributed to all who may need them.

Burial customs in Cairo differ considerably from those of the upper country, as may be seen from the following notes, furnished by a Coptic student at the Kasr el-Aini School of Medicine.

The grave consists of a subterranean chamber, reached by a flight of three or four steps. In this the coffins are placed side by side. Superstructures above these graves sometimes assume considerable proportions, and even include rooms in which the relatives may lodge.

After the death the body is washed with soap and lifa fiber, first in hot water and then in cold, men being washed by men and women by women. It is then clothed in a complete suit of ordinary clothes. Only jewels or personal ornaments are placed with the body, or in the case of a priest a crucifix. The wrapping consists of a single large shawl of cotton or silk. This is folded in two and the sides sewn together. Into the open bag thus formed the body is introduced the ends are folded over head and feet, and a bandage is tied round the waist to keep the whole in position. The body is then placed in a coffin—usually of wood, though stone is occasionally used—together with some flowers and powdered leaves of perfume. Before the coffin is closed for the last time water and dust are sprinkled over the body by the priest. The color of the coffin varies according to the age of the deceased, white being used for young people and black for old. They are frequently decorated with crosses. Until recent years women used to follow the funeral, but now the funeral processions are composed entirely of men.

The position of the body in the grave is always the same, flat on the back, with the face turned to the east, i.e. towards Jerusalem.

III Cemetery 2000

Cemetery 2000 is situated on a bluff just north of the second ravine. It is bounded on the west by the road along the edge of the cultivation, on the south and southeast by the old watercourse, while to the north it merges gradually into the steep slopes of Cemetery 3500. In Pl. –, taken from the top of the slope, Cemetery 2000 is shown in the foreground; beyond are Cemeteries 3000 and 1500, and on the extreme left, in the distance, the village and Dêr.

The surface of the bluff was already, before Coptic times, well pitted with VIIX dyn. Graves, while the slopes below and above were honeycombed with rock-cut tombs of the same date. These will be described with the other tombs of Cemetery 3500 in a later volume.14 In the general plan (Pl. –) the early tombs are marked in black, while those of the Coptic period are shown in red. The Coptic graves were constructed above and around the older ones in most haphazard fashion; though haphazard is perhaps hardly the right term to apply to the work of a man who deliberately chooses the softest ground to dig in. Unfortunately the direction of the old pits did not, as s rule, conform to that which custom demanded the new should take, so that the Copt could not make the fullest use, as he doubtless would otherwise have done, of the work of his predecessors. Most of the VIIX dyn. pits have Coptic graves running across them, and as the pits seem in most cases to have been plundered after the Coptic period it is a common sight to see a Coptic burial cut off sharp in the middle, or left partially overhanging (see Pl. –).

Occasionally the Copts went still further, and actually made use of the original old grave, in some cases appropriating the coffin itself. Instances of this are shown in Pl. –: –

  1. represents a VIIX dyn. pit with an inscribed wooden coffin in the chamber. The burial had been disturbed, either in pre-Coptic times or by the Copts themselves, and the lid of the coffin had fallen in. Inside this coffin, supported by the remains of the former burial and the ruins of the lid, there was a Coptic burial [ed.: N 2631].

  2. shows a Coptic burial placed in the innermost chamber of a rock-cut tomb [ed.: N 2439].

  3. gives us an excellent example of the careless and irreverent manner in which the Copts disposed of their dead. The excavation of the grave brought to light a wooden coffin of the small square type so common in the VI dynasty. The coffin, constructed as it was for a contracted burial, was useless for their purposes, and the most natural course for them to pursue would have been either to move the coffin out of the way, or to shift the position of the new burial a little to one side. They did neither. The lid was removed, one of the sides was broken down, the original occupant of the coffin was unceremoniously pushed out of the way, and the new burial was deposited, body inside and legs projecting. Then, that no touch of the grotesque might be wanting, the lid of the coffin was replaced. In the photograph, the skull and small pot seen on the further side of the coffin belong to the early burial.

  4. is a still more glaring instance of Coptic barbarity. The original grave contained a VI dyn. basket burial,15 and this the Copts deliberately broke up and destroyed, a rough wooden headrest and a few reeds from the basket alone remaining to show that the grave was a reused one.

    In e. we have another case of wanton destruction, an early burial being almost entirely broken up to make room for the new one. In the photograph, part of the original coffin, with the skull and a few bones, can be seen, still in position, to the left of the feet of the Coptic burial [ed.: N 2203?].

    In f. we have a Coptic burial introduced into the chamber of an early pit. In this case the early coffin and burial were not disturbed [ed.: N 2630?].

We have seen the absolute want of respect that the Copts showed towards the dead of their ancestors: for their credit—or further discredit from another point of view—we must add that they showed an almost equal want of respect towards their own. A good instance of this is shown in the next plate (—). 3747 F was a large VIIX dyn. rock-cut tomb chamber. In this, heedless of propriety or possible contamination, some twenty-five bodies had been piled; not regularly arranged with a due regard to the proper direction, but indiscriminately thrown one upon another, filling the chamber from floor to roof, the final burial blocking the doorway, half in, half out. The plate shows a series of photographs taken in the course of the clearing, and gives a better idea than words can of the manner in which the bodies must have been pitchforked—there is no other word to describe it—into the chamber. Of the bodies 6 were men, 10 were women, and the rest were children. It is impossible to say why this method of internment was adopted. The burials were not appreciably poorer than the others, so that we cannot explain it on grounds of economy. They may possibly have all belonged to one family, or have been the victims of some sudden epidemic.

Apart from this group the bodies were usually buried singly, though a few instances of multiple burials were found. Examples of this are shown in Pl. –. In a. we have a group of 5(?) burials, jumbled together in much the same fashion as those in the rock-cut tomb.

In b. the juxtaposition of the bodies was probably accidental: indeed the burial on the right may be old Egyptian.

In c. we have two children, buried one above another at the end of an old grave.

In d. we have (in the foreground) two burials side by side, one a woman and the other a child. Beyond there is another Coptic burial; beneath the three there is an old Egyptian coffin, while to the left there is another old coffin.

In e. and f. there are two examples of double burials, in the one case a woman and child, and in the other a man(?) and child.

Types of the ordinary class of single burials are shown in Pl. – (wrappings preserved) and (wrappings gone). The graves are roughly cut, and are just large enough to contain the body, the head end being wider than the feet. They vary in depth from 50–150 cm.

Of surface construction there is hardly a trace remaining in the whole cemetery, but we must by no means take it for granted that there never were any superstructures. We have seen in the case of the modern cemetery that it is possible for a superstructure to be effaced completely in a comparatively short space of time, and it is at least extremely probably that the graves were covered by some sort of rude memorial. Gayet states that at Antinoe the tombs of the “second period”—AD 320 to 620—were covered by rectangular enclosures of brick,16 and from the evidence of two tombs in this cemetery (Nos. – and –) it would appear that a somewhat similar superstructure prevailed here. Round the tops of the graves (Pl. –) there were the remains of rectangular brick retaining-walls, half brick thick, with a present height of – cm. That belonging to No. – was fairly complete, but of only the north side and part of the west side remained. On their western aces there were two projecting buttresses, which were apparently rounded. These were probably intended merely for ornament, but it is tempting to connect them with the “false doors” in the west faces of the early mastabas.17 As to the height of these structures and method of roofing—if roofed they were—we have no direct evidence. There is one fact, however, which has a considerable bearing on the question, and that is the extraordinary similarity that exists between the modern Coptic tomb and the XXVIXXX dynasty wooden sarcophagus. A good illustration of this is afforded by the room of late sarcophagi in the Cairo Museum, which presents a strikingly similar appearance to that of our modern Coptic cemetery. Having then a coffin of a distinctive shape in the 8th–4th centuries BC, and a superstructure of practically the same shape so many centuries later, and knowing that the later Copts at any rate did not use coffins, it is reasonable to suppose that the Coptic superstructures which intervened between the two periods should be of the same type. The transference of the shape from the coffin to the superstructure presents no difficulties, though unfortunately we know so little of the archaeology of the first few centuries of the Christian era that we have practically no evidence on which to base any theory. It is possible that she shape was common to both coffin and superstructure in the early period; or again it may be that at the time when coffins were abandoned, the shape of the coffin was transferred to the superstructure. Probably, then, the old Coptic superstructure was in general appearance very similar to the modern one, and the brick rectangles which we have here, and which Gayet refers to, may have been the bases for rough barrel-shaped vaults.

In Pl. – we have the remains of superstructure of a different type. This was situated just west of the entrance to the crowded rock-tomb referred to above, and consisted of a circular wall, one brick thick and about – cm high, with a diameter of – cm. In the photograph the entrance to the chamber is on the right. This structure may have supported a dome; it probably had some connection with the burials in the tomb.

So little is known of the old Coptic period that it is impossible to date material with any degree of accuracy. Fortunately in this cemetery we have dating evidence of some value in the shape of a coin (Pl. –) which was pierced and hung round a child’s neck as a pendant. It is dated to the third year of Justinian, that is to say AD 530. Of course it would be possible for a coin to be kept for some time before being used in this way, but the period would probably not exceed fifty years, and we may with some confidence assign our cemetery to the latter half of the sixth century.

IV The Burials

A General Details

The bodies in this cemetery were not, in the strict sense of the word, mummified, though a certain amount of care was taken to preserve them, and the bodies were so elaborately wrapped that they present on the outside all the appearance of mummies.18 The preservative used was common rock-salt, such as occurs in plenty in the desert round, and even in the cemetery itself. This was not applied in solution, but was used in its crude state, being bound in with the wrappings. With it there were in most cases a number of small globular fruits.19 The system was crude, and by no means to be commended from an excavator’s point of view, for in certain cases it had preserved the bodies just long enough to make them unpleasant to deal with. The salt, moreover, had penetrated right through the various layers of shirts and wrappings, rendering the cloth stiff and brittle, and very difficult to handle. The condition of the burials varied considerably. On the western side of the cemetery, that adjoining the cultivation, there was never anything left but the bare skeleton, but on the upper side, where the ground was drier, the wrappings were as a rule well preserved, and the bodies themselves were in some cases almost perfect (see Pl. –). The hair was frequently in a perfect state of preservation (see Pl. –), and occasionally eyebrows and lashes, remains of beard, or even in one case of moustache, were still in position. The color of the hair was very constant, a dark brown, inclining in some cases to auburn. Both men and women seem to have worn the hair long, but a curious and somewhat unexpected distinction can be marked between that of the two sexes. With women it was either straight (Pl. –) or wavy (Pl. –), showing no marked tendency to curl; whereas with men it was frequently very curly (Pl. –), so elaborately curly in fact that we are almost forced to the conclusion that the effect was produced by artificial means. Beards seem to have been worn quite short, and our single specimen of moustache (Pl. –) was thin, with upturned points. Children also seem to have worn the hair long, though we have one case at least—that of a boy—where the hair was cropped quite close (Pl. –).

The position of the body in the grave was constant—on the back, straight out—the only variation being that the arms were occasionally crossed over the body instead of being straight at the side. The grave, as we have stated, was with rare exceptions oriented east-west, and in it the body was always laid head west. On the few occasions in which the body for some reason or other, such as the reuse of an old grave, was placed in a north-south position, the head was always to the north. Unlike the modern burial, in which the face is inclined to one side, the skulls were always face upwards. In many cases the neck was bent forwards, so that the chin rested on the breast, but it is possible that this was not intentional, but was the result of the wrapping and strenuous tying up which the body had to undergo in the course of its preparation for the tomb.

Many of the bodies were in too fragmentary a state for the sex to be identified. Of the examples which could be sexed 43 were adult males, 38 were adult females, while 40 were immature, many of them being quite small children. In one case (No. 3747 F 5) a woman had died only about a month before she would have given birth to a child.

Broken bones were comparatively rare. In 3747 F 11 (female) the right humerus had been broken, and the broken ends had receded and worn down to points. The ball of the left femur had also broken off, and was much decayed.

In 3747 F 13 (male) the right ulna had been broken near the elbow. The radius was not affected.

In 2004 (female) the left femur had been broken.

2134 (male) provides us with one of the most interesting examples of ancient surgery that has yet been found (see Pl. –), namely splinting for a broken patella. The left patella had been snapped in half. The joint was tightly bound round, and a splint of palm-wood, 18 cm long by 4 cm wide, inserted in the bandages below the knee. Outside the splint there was a large pad of red and brown striped cloth, apparently torn from an old shirt. The whole was tied round with red woolen cords. In the plate (a) shows the bandaging over the upper part of the joint; (b) shows the bandaging over the lower side, with the splint; (c) shows the lower side after the removal of the bandages, while (d) shows the upper side and the actual break. It is doubtful whether gangrene intervened, or whether the patient had received other injuries which caused death, but in any case the patient died soon after the operation, and was buried with the bandages and splint still in position. Two other instances of splinting have been found in Egyptian graves, both cases occurring, curiously enough, in cemetery 3500, within a hundred yards of the site of the present grave. In the one case it was the femur that was broken, and in the other the radius and ulna. Both belonged to the VIIX dyn. period.20

In 2410 (male) there was a bad fracture of the femur.

In 2413 the bottom of the right ulna had been broken, and had worn down to a sharp point. The left ulna had also been broken near the middle, and the two ends, without being properly reset, had grown together.

The Copts of this cemetery were not swathed in bandages, but were buried in their ordinary everyday clothes. Nor were these burial clothes of a special type, or even bought new for the occasion, as is evident from the fact that many of the garments used show distinct signs of wear, and in some cases had even been carefully patched and darned. The outfit was not elaborate, that of the woman differing in but few essentials from that of the man. Both were clothed in shirts21 of the same type, one, two, or even three bring used, and, in the case of the men at any rate, this was all they wore. A few of the shirts were plain, but as a rule—with men women and children alike—they were more or less elaborately decorated. In a few examples the shirts were worn inside out, and occasionally the arms were not inserted in the sleeves. Three of the women (3747 F 5, 2636 and 2700) had belts of cloth round the lower part of the body. With the first, the case mentioned on page—the belt was between the inner and the outer shirt, and consisted of a narrow strip, folded to a width of about 6 cm, which went once round and was fastened at the back. That belonging to 2636 was next to the skin. It consisted of a small plaid shawl with fringed ends, about 80 cm long by 70 cm wide when open, and like the other was tied at the back. In 2700 the belt consisted of a piece of ordinary cloth, folded to a width of 4.5 cm, and was worn outside the shirt.

The men wore nothing in the shape of a headdress, but the women frequently had net caps or hoods, or both—they were so crushed and stiff with salt that it was difficult to make any distinction (Pl. –). The copper circlets, of which three were found, were all with women. None were in place on the head, and, were it not for the fact that circlets of other materials were found actually in position, it would seem more natural to suppose that they were worn round the neck. One of them, in fact, was actually found in this position (Pl. –), but it might easily have fallen so subsequently. Of the remaining two, one was found by the side of the head, while the other was lying in the position of the head, though the skull itself was missing (Pl. –). Burials 4511 and 2006 wore circlets composed of cloth and palm-leaf (Pls. – and – a–d). Both were children, the former probably a girl and the latter a boy. With burial 2134, a man, there was a circlet of twisted red wool. This again was not actually in position, but it was lying close to the head. The purpose served by the circlet was presumably to keep the head-shawl in position. The tightly wound turban had not yet been introduced. In the present day indeed the Bedouin Arab and the Syrian peasant both wear a loose head-shawl and a stiff camels-hair binding that is to all intents and purposes a circlet. The cloth and palm type a circlet seems somewhat inadequate for everyday use, but the owners may have kept them for show occasions.

Sandals were very rare. They occurred in three instances, and in only one of the three (No. 2414) were they actually worn (see photograph on Pl. – f, with the foot still in position). The body was that of an adult whose sex was not determined. In Grave 2812, that of a child, a single sandal was found close to the right hand of the mummy, bound in with the wrappings. The third example was from a child’s grave on another part of the site (Pl. – d). In all three cases the sandals were of leather.

With the exception of signet rings, the use of jewelry and personal ornaments was entirely confined to the women and children. Even signet rings were uncommon in men’s graves, only occurring in four examples. In the graves of the women and children, however, rings were found in considerable numbers, the materials being bronze, iron, silver, bone and twisted hair (Pl. –). They were worn on either hand, but, as far as our evidence went, on the third and little fingers only. The subjoined table gives all the evidence of position that we were able to recover:—

In Grave 3747 F 19 four iron and two bronze rings were found on the left side of the body, but some distance away from the hand. They were probably all tied together, for there was a wisp of thread by them.

Beads (Pl. –), curiously enough, were comparatively rare, only occurring in 15 burials (colored glass and rough stone).

Bracelets (Pl. –) were fairly common. They were usually made of bronze, but iron, bone, ivory and twisted palm-fiber were also found. They were worn on either arm, and frequently on both, and on any part of the arm, from the wrist to above the elbow.

Anklets were only found in two graves. In both instances the burials were of children, and it is noteworthy that in neither case were there necklaces, earrings, finger-rings or bracelets. Four examples, of which the exact position was doubtful, were found in the one case (Grave 2077), and two in the other (Grave 2202), one on either ankle. All six were of bronze.

Earrings (Pl. –) occur 14 times, the material being gold (one example), silver and bronze, the last mentioned usually having bead pendants.

Crosses (Pl. –) were found in 8 cases. They seem usually to have been attached to the necklace, as many as three being found with one burial. Most of the crosses were of bronze, but two were of silver, and one was an elaborate combination of bronze chain-work and beads.

In Pls. – the personal ornaments from the more elaborate burials are shown in groups. In some cases the outfit is very complete. Burial No. 3747 F 4 for example had:—

a bronze circlet
earrings of bronze, with gilt glass and carnelian beads,
a necklace of glass beads and small shells with a pendant silver cross,
on the right wrist one bracelet of bronze and two of twisted palm,
above the right elbow two bronze bracelets,
on the left wrist one bracelet of bronze and one of twisted palm,
above the left elbow three bronze bracelets, one with a key attached to it,
on the right one bronze ring,
on the left hand two rings of twisted hair,
by the head a small glass bottle.

Small glass bottles (Pl. –) were found in position in two burial, both women. In each case the bottle was wrapped up with the body, one (3747 F 4) being by the head, and the other (2636) by the right hand. Pottery seems never to have been placed in the grave with the body. The few pieces found (Pl. –), and they were mostly broken, were always in the filling near the surface. The only other objects found in position with the burials were a bronze dipper (Pl. –), which lay close by the head of 2417 (male) and a small leather bag (Pl. –), which was attached to a leather cord and hung round the neck of 3747 F X (male).

B Preparation of the Body for Burial

So far we have confined ourselves to the body and to the personal possessions that were buried with it. There remain the wrappings, which were elaborate and complicated; and of these we shall probably be able to give a more intelligible account if we reverse our field notes, and describe the actual process of preparation for burial. In Plates – there are a number of series of photographs taken during the unwrapping of the various bodies to show the successive stages of the wrapping process. For our present purposes we must read these series of photographs backwards, starting with the skeleton, and working gradually up to the completed mummy.22 There are of course many peculiarities and minor points of difference in the wrappings of various mummies, but the general idea is the same in all. Such minor details may be left to the catalogue of burials in Chapter VI, and it will be sufficient here to give a broad outline of the method employed.

In the first place, and we must notice this before going any further, there were no coffins; nor, apparently were biers used to convey the body to the cemetery. Instead, the body was rendered stiff for carrying by the insertion of two or more long sticks or poles inside the wrappings. Palm wood was naturally in commonest use, but branches of acacia, tamarisk, and other trees were also found. The sticks were usually placed underneath the body, but occasionally two were deposited on either side of it, and in one case no less than six were used, three above the body, and three below it. The adjacent ends of the sticks were fastened together, notches being cut in the wood to keep the cord in position. In default of sticks a flat board was sometimes employed; in fact anything was used that happened to lie handy, in one instance an old spade even being requisitioned (Pl. –).

The bodies were not swathed in bandages like the early mummies, but were simply wrapped up in a series of shawls, each one being applied separately. The shawls were of varying quality of cloth, ranging from coarse sackcloth to the finest linen. As a rule they were a good deal longer than the body, and of sufficient width to envelope it completely, though for certain purposes smaller finer shawls were used, which did not wrap round, but were placed loosely on top. The number of shawls used varied considerably: in some cases a single wrapping was considered sufficient, while in others there were four, five, or even six. As a general rule the finer shawls were used nearer the body, and the coarser ones outside; though the finest one of all was usually kept for the last, to cover up the binding cords and to act as a kind of pall. The method of wrapping was as follows—

The innermost shawl was laid flat on the ground, and the palm or other sticks placed lengthwise upon it. The body, dressed in its one, two or three shirts, as the case might be, was then lifted, and deposited on or between the sticks, care being taken to leave an excess of shawl at both head and feet. The head usually rested directly on the shawl, but in one example (3747 F 17) there was a neck-pad, composed of folded cloth covered with red net (Pl. –). From the appearance of the bodies this part of the ceremony was not too carefully and reverently performed, as the shirts, in the majority of cases, were rucked up to the small of the back. The body in position, a quantity of salt was sprinkled upon it, mixed with crushed fruits and, occasionally, sprigs of some aromatic herb (Pl. –). The sides of the shawl were then thrown back over the body, the right side first as a rule, and then the left, and were sewn together or tied round with cord. Next, the excess of cloth at the ends was folded in over the head and feet, the extra fullness at the head end being utilized to form a kind of pad over the face; and, finally, a cord or strip of cloth was tied round either end to keep everything in place. The second shawl was then laid out and the process was repeated, and so with the third and fourth until the required number had been used. Special attention was paid in the wrapping to the protection of the face. As stated above, the excess ends of the shawl wrappings were utilized as pads for this purpose, and, in addition, extra padding of various kinds was introduced between the successive layers of cloth. This in some cases assumed absurd proportions, and gave a somewhat grotesque appearance to the mummy (see for example Pl. –). The padding usually consisted of waste cloth—old shirts, torn shawls, and scraps of all kinds—but in 11 instances grass, palm fiber, or chopped straw, was used instead, either loose (Pl. –) or tied up into small bundles (Pl. – and –). In 2416 the padding was very elaborate and merits special description. Placed immediately on the face itself there was a quantity of very fine soft fiber (Pl. –). Above it there was a shawl which enveloped the whole body, and above this again there was, first a quantity of chopped straw, and then five small bundles or faggots of straw (Pl. –), each bound separately, and then all five bound together. These were kept in position by a cloth wrapping, which went right [over] the head and was fastened with cords (Pl. –). Over this there came the outer shawl of sackcloth, which was corded round in the usual way, but had in addition a number of extra bindings round the head, composed of thin strips of sacking, to ensure that the padding should not slip out of place (Pl. –).

The outermost of the wrapping shawls in almost every instance consisted of rough sackcloth. This in place, the mummy was subjected to a very elaborate system of cording. Five slightly different methods of binding could be distinguished, though all based on much the same principle. In each case a double series of cords was involved, a longitudinal series, looping round the head and feet, and a transverse series, encircling the body. These five methods are shown in diagram in Figs. –.

  1. Fig. – shows the simplest method of binding. The transverse cords were fastened first, either straight round the body (Pl. –), or crossing each other to form a kind of network (Pl. –). The longitudinal bindings were then added. They consisted of a varying number of cords, which were looped round the head and feet, and then fastened together to run straight down the center of the body. Occasionally a few extra transverse cords were added to keep the longitudinal ones in place. Five examples of this type of cording were found.

  2. In Fig. – we get a slight variation. In this case the longitudinal cords, instead of uniting and running down the center of the body in one group, were fastened in such a fashion that they formed two parallel groups (Pl. –). Only two examples of this were found (see Mace-Fig5).

  3. The method of binding in Fig. – was considerably more elaborate. Here the longitudinal cords were the first to be applied. They were not fastened together in any way, and therefore ran in parallel lines down the front of the body. A succession of transverse bindings were then added. These passed round the body and coming up on either side looped over the two longitudinal cords, first one, and then the other; in other words, coming from under, they caught into the near and far cords alternately (1). Thus, when the transverse bindings were drawn tight, the longitudinal cords crossed each other between each binding, assuming the arrangement shown in (2). Six examples of this were found (see Pl. –; Mace-Fig6).

  4. Here we meet with a new element (Fig. –). A few preliminary transverse bindings were first applied. Next the longitudinal “head and feet” bindings were added, and, to keep them in position, an additional cord was introduced, which ran between them, and lopped over either side in turn. To these succeeded the regular series of transverse bindings, looping into the longitudinal cords and passing underneath; and finally there were in some cases a number of additional cords, which completely encircled the body (Pl. –). Nine examples were found which could be assigned definitely to this group (see Mace-Fig7).

  5. This was an elaboration of the last method. The longitudinal bindings were divided into three, and therefore a double set of inner looping cords were required to keep them in position (Fig. –). Above there was a network of transverse bindings, which covered the whole body, fastening round each other, and looping into the longitudinal cords (Pl. –). Only one example of this was found (see Mace-Fig7).

The 23 burials quoted above were the only ones which were sufficiently well preserved for the method of binding to be noted accurately. There may have been a number of other variations. The binding cords consisted of palm fiber, and usually consisted of two strands twisted together. There were, however, occasional instances of a finer variety of cord, made by the twisting of two strands, each of which was composed of three minute strands. Strips of coarse cloth were occasionally used in place of cord. These were not haphazard lengths cut from a shawl, but regularly woven tapes, a decorative effect being produced by alternating different colored threads.

Baled and corded till it had lost all semblance of human form, the mummy was now ready for transport to the cemetery. In some cases however—possibly in all, for the outside wrapping would be the first to disappear—there was yet another covering to be added. This consisted of a shawl of a finer quality of cloth than that of any of the inner wrappings, either colored throughout, or decorated with elaborate inwoven designs in colored wool. Its object was doubtless to conceal all defects in the inner wrapping, and to give a more dignified appearance to the mummy. It covered the top only, and was fastened by tying or sewing the corners together round head and feet.

V Notes on the Objects Found

A Clothing and Wrappings

The garments of the sixth century Copt were, from a dressmaking point of view, of an engaging simplicity. Cutting out there was none; and all problems of piecing and fitting were obviated by making each garment complete in a single piece in the loom itself.23 Fig. – illustrates the method by which this was accomplished. Beginning at the end of one sleeve, and allowing for double width, a band was woven for the estimated sleeve length. The weave then widened on either side to form the back and front of the skirt, and finally narrowed down again to the original size for the other sleeve. Removed from the loom the cloth was folded double; the edges c … e and l … i respectively were sewn together to form the sleeves, and b … f and m … h respectively to form the sides; a hole was cut for the head; and the shirt was made. It is difficult to see why this method of beginning with the sleeve, necessitating as it did a very wide loom, was adopted, when it would certainly seem more natural to begin with the bottom of the skirt. It may have been found to be more convenient in dealing with the shirt decoration, which, as we shall see later, was added while the cloth was still in the loom. Whatever the reason there was evidence that this was the method that was most usually employed, a,c,e,g,i and l being almost invariably selvage edges, while b,d,f,h,k and m were warp ends, generally twisted up to form a cord border.

A shirt of this description must have been extremely awkward and uncomfortable to wear, the sleeves in particular presenting difficulties owing to the excess of material at the shoulders. To obviate this the majority of the shirts were not sewn all the way up at the seams, the sleeves from the wrist or elbow to the shoulder, and the sides for a considerable distance down, being left open. The wearer could thus, if he were engaged in manual labor, or wanted for any other reason to have free play for his arms, slip them out of the sleeves altogether, and either tie the sleeves round his neck, or leave them to hang loose. In the climate of Upper Egypt this method of dispensing with the sleeves on occasion would have distinct advantages. The neck opening was usually a straight slit (Fig. 1) but sometimes an extra cut was added at the bottom (2), and occasionally, either on the right shoulder or the left, there was an extension of the cut (3). In this case a toggle of cloth was sewn on at the side of the neck on one side, and a loop to button it to on the other. The cut neck-edges were oversewn, or hemmed.

In six instances, due probably to repair rather than to original design, the shirts were made of two pieces of cloth joined together, the join being a straight one across chest of waist. Three instances were found of tucks on the body of the shirt, two being simple narrow ones, while the third was a large double tuck that reduced the length of the skirt by 20 cm. In one instance there was a narrow tuck on a sleeve. Darns were not infrequent.

Exact measurements as to the size of the garments were extremely difficult to come by, even in graves in which the cloth was comparatively well preserved. Owing to the rigorous constriction that the bodies had undergone in preparation for burial the shirts, ill-fitting and baggy as they must have been at the best of times, were gathered into innumerable folds and pleats. There were, moreover, thoroughly impregnated with salt, and therefore stiff and intractable. Immersion in a bath with several changes of water, followed by careful ironing, was necessary before they could be considered safe to handle. In some cases the cloth had hardened to such an extent that it was necessary, in order to separate the shirts from the bones, to put the whole body into the river to soak. The few measurements that could be secured are given in the following table:

A few of the shirts were plain, but the majority were ornamented with more or less elaborate designed in colored linen or wool. As is usual in Coptic textiles these designs were in almost every case loom-worked and not embroidered: they form that is to say a part of the original fabric, instead of being worked on to the finished cloth after it had been taken from the loom. Tapestry-weaving is the term that has usually been applied to these textiles, but, strictly speaking, it is an incorrect term to use, since the patterns were probably worked on to the warp threads by means of needles, rather than actually shuttle-woven. “Weft-mosaic” has been suggested as an alternative that more accurately described the method of working.24 True embroidery does of course occur. A few examples were found in the cloths under discussion, the needle being used to outline certain parts of the pattern, or for small independent designs, but, as a general rule, the complete design was filled in before the cloth was taken from the loom.25 In few instances, the weft threads were of red throughout.

Fig. – shows the commonest type of shirt decoration at this period, with bands crossing the shoulders and running down back and front, medallions on the shoulders and at either side of the bottom of the skirt, back and front, and bands round the cuffs. There were of course minor variations in this pattern of shirt. The terminals of the shoulder-bands, for instance, were sometimes round instead of spade-shaped, and the cuff-bands were occasionally doubled, and in some bases had broken edge (Fig. –), There were instances too in which the skirt-medallions were cur from another cloth and applied, instead of being inwoven in the cloth of the shirt itself. This style of shirt seems to have been worn by men and women alike, with the difference that in the shirts intended for women brighter colors seem to have been used, the patterns being worked in wools in preference to colored linen thread. In addition, women’s and children’s shirts had frequently another distinguishing mark in the shape of an extra colored band, sewn on at the bottom and part of the way up the side of the skirt, round the edge of the sleeve, and occasionally round the neck also. These bands were usually of blue cloth, with a geometrical or other design in white or yellow thread. In five cases the bands were red instead of blue. Another fairly common scheme of decoration consisted of wide panels across the shoulders and down back and front to the bottom of the skirt. In the example given (Fig. –) blue, yellow, red and green wool were used, the panels being enclosed by narrow lines of dark blue or heliotrope linen thread. This skirt also had the additional applied bands of blue and white round the bottom of the skirt, the neck, and the cuffs. A third scheme—noted in one instance only—consisted of a vertical panel up the front and back, dividing into two at the chest and shoulder-blades to pass over each shoulder, with a similar band round the cuffs of the sleeves. This shirt (Fig. –) was made of two pieces of cloth, with a straight join at the waist. The ornamentation was in red linen thread. Fig. – shows a plainer type of shirt, the decoration consisting of inwoven narrow lines of darker thread—two down each breast, three at the sides of the skirt, and three on each cuff. Blue bands with designs in white thread were added, after its removal from the loom, to the bottom of the skirt, halfway up the sides, and round the neck-opening.

It is proposed to issue a supplementary volume, illustrated with colored plates, in which the question of design will be taken up in detail, For the purposes of the present volume it will be sufficient to state that in the patterns floral and geometrical motives predominated, and that occasional examples of animal, or more rarely of human, figures occurred.

Sixteen of the burials—women and children—showed remains of head-coverings, but there were so badly crushed and in such fragile condition that it was impossible, in the majority of cases, to do more than note the fact that they had existed. Some of them may have been caps, but of this there was no definite evidence. Most of them seem to have been more in the nature of head-shawls, made either of net, or of a combination of net and closely woven cloth. The position in which they were found was not necessarily an indication of the manner in which they were meant to be worn. In some cases, for example, the net was drawn tight down over the face, and that it here served merely the purpose of a burial covering is clear from the fact that in other instances its place was taken by a plain square of cloth. In other cases it was merely folded or crushed together and laid on or by the head. The best-preserved examples are shown on Pl. –. The first two photographs (Grave 2636) show the shawl completely covering the face: the lower part was of plain linen thread, whereas above it was made of wool, red, yellow, and green. In c and d (Grave 3747 F 22) we have a double face-covering—above a diagonally woven cloth of coarse linen and dark green wool, and below a net cap or hood (?), with a kind of knob top. In e (Grave 3747 F 10) the covering was a combination of net and closely woven cloth. The net in f (Grave 2203) covers the back of the head and not the face, and was probably placed as it had been worn during life. g (Grave 2002) shows the remains of an elaborate net covering of blue, yellow, and red linen thread. Yellow and black, and green and red, were combinations of color that occurred in other graves. Pl. – c and d (Grave 3747 F 17) shows clearly that in this case the net covering was carelessly crushed together and placed as a pad on top of the head. By the neck of this same mummy there were bundles of cloth, tightly rolled up into cushions, and covered with a diagonally woven cloth of bright red.

The position and use of the circlets have been discussed in the preceding chapter. Three of them (Graves 2102 A, 3747 F 4 and 3747 F 21) were of bronze (see Pls. – and –).26 These were fastened, not be soldering, but by crossing the ends and twisting them round the wire in a series of close rings to form a kind of spring (Fig. –). The circlet would thus be expanded to the extent of the interval between the two sets of rings, and sprang back to its original size when the tension was released. Photographs a, b, c and d on Pl. – show an elaborate circlet found in position on the head (Grave 2006). The basis of it was a piece of palm leaf 3 cm wide. This was covered inside and out with red wool, which was apparently wound round it in narrow strips, and to the wool were fastened small bits of straw in various patterns. In Pl. – e and f two views are shown of a circlet consisting of a twist of red wool. This was not actually found in position on the head, but was lying beside it.

Only three instances of sandals were found. Two were of plain, undecorated leather, but the third (Pl. –) was of somewhat elaborate workmanship. Decorative patterns were stamped on the sandal proper; a ring for the big toe was fastened to the sole, and attached to this ring and to the sides there were four thongs of plaited leather to carry over the instep. In addition, there seems to have been a fifth strip to go round the heel.

The shawls were of all varieties of cloth, from coarse sackcloth to the most finely woven linen, and of considerable range in size, from the winding sheet that completely enveloped the body to the small cloth that was folded up and laid over the face, and which may originally have served as a head shawl. Measurements were even harder to obtain than they were in the case of the shirts, for in many cases the original size of the shawl was reduced by cutting. The few that could be noted are given below.

As a general rule, the sides were selvage and the ends tasseled or corded, but in two or three cases the ends were selvage and the sides were cord edged. The decoration naturally varied with the fineness of the cloth. The thick sackcloth outer wrappings were, in the majority of cases, plain, but a few had narrow bands of inwoven colored wove at either end. The inner wrappings of ordinary cloth were much more commonly decorated, the decoration, like that of the sackcloth shawls, consisting usually of bands of color near the ends, either of wool (combinations of red, yellow, blue and green), or of linen (green, blue, red, white or black). Occasionally narrow lines of colored linen thread were employed to enclose the bands of wool. In one case (Grave 2130) the original shawl was plain, but at each corner there had been applied a large square panel, cut from another cloth, containing a human figure in red, blue, yellow, and green wool. Real embroidery was sometimes employed on these shawls. In one case, for instance (Grave 2009) there were lines of inwoven dark red and blue linen thread, and between the lines courses in colored wool that were evidently needle-woven on the finished cloth. The outermost wrapping of all—the pall—usually consisted of colored cloth—yellow commonly, though red, pink, and a dark heliotrope also occurred. These again were usually decorated with inwoven bands of colored linen or wool. One (Grave 2413) had in each corner an inwoven medallion of heliotrope and white linen thread, combined with blue, green, yellow and red wool. The head-shawls were more elaborate. One (Grave 2009) had a design of vertical and horizontal lines of inwoven blue and green linen. It had also a diamond of real embroidery in each corner and a cording of colored wool along the sides. In another (Grave 2503), narrow lines of green, red and blue were combined with bands of decoration in colored wools (Fig. –). A third (Grave 2636), probably a head-shawl originally, though when found it was wrapped tightly round the stomach, was a regular plaid. At regular intervals in the warp threads double black lines were inserted, while the weft consisted of alternating bands of yellow, red and green, with occasional lines of black thread, similar to those used in the warp. This was of linen throughout.

B Ornaments

A number of necklaces, with beads strung as nearly as possible in original order, are shown in Pl. –. Others are included in the tomb groups on Pls. –, –, and –. See also Pls. – C and G, where the beads are shown in position on the body. In the original stringing no sort of order or method was followed, the beads being apparently taken haphazard from a miscellaneous stock, and the result is thoroughly typical of the mental untidiness that characterized the Copt.

Of the materials used, glass was by far the commonest, the beads being made in a variety of shapes and in numerous colored—red, blue, green, yellow, or gilt. Shells were also of frequent occurrence, and there were occasional instances of faience, beryl, carnelian, and amethyst. To the necklaces were attached pendants of various kinds.

Crosses seem to have been commonly worn in this way, for the y were always found on the breast and generally in combination with bead necklaces. In cases where there was no necklace they were probably strung round the neck on a plain cord. The crosses (see Pl. – B) were usually of plain bronze, but there were two cases of silver and one that was a combination of bronze chain work and glass beads. Usually a single cross was worn, but in one grave (3747 F 22) the necklace was composed of three bronze crosses, a few shells, two green glass beads and a bone button (Pl. – E).

Other examples of pendants are shown on Pl. – C. The first on the top row is a bronze coin, dated in the third year of Justinian (see also Pl. –). The second may also have been a coin, but there was no inscription visible: possibly it was used as an earring. The third and fourth are bone discs. The two copper binds in the middle row may also have been pendants of earrings. The dour at the bottom consist of bronze rings with glass beads attached, to which are suspended discs of bone (left), paste (middle), and glass (left). A necklace in Grave 2636 provided an excellent example of Coptic catholicity of taste, in the shape of a faience scarab of the Eighteenth Dynasty.

The earrings are of considerable variety. A number of them are shown on Pl. – B: see also Tomb groups on Plates – and –, and, for a photograph of one in position, Pl. –. Some were of plain metal, silver (Pl. – B, top row 5), bronze (top row 6), gold (middle row 1), and lead (middle row 2): others consisted of bronze rings, from which drops or pendants were suspended: others again found elaborate combinations of rings, chains and pendants. Three distinct methods were used for fastening the suspension rings (see Fig. –). In (1), the ends were simply overlapped and left; in (2) the ends were bent into loops and one hooked through the other; in (3)—originally used in cases in which thin wire was employed—the ends, after overlapping, were twisted round the ring in a series of loops. The pendants were either plain drops of glass, or a combination of glass and carnelian beads: in both cases they were strung on bronze wire, one end of which looped round the ring while the other formed a second loop, plain or fish-tailed, at the bottom of the pendant. A restoration of an elaborate type of earring, of which two more or less complete pairs and pairs of several other were found, is given in Fig. –. With the exception of a single glass bead at the bottom of each pendant, it is of bronze throughout. Another combination of rings and chains is shown in Pl. – B, bottom row 4. The top of the earring is missing, but it probably consisted of a small ring. Next comes a considerable length of chain; then two more rings, the upper of Type 3 in Fig. – and the lower of Type 1; and finally a pendant of true glass beads. In this earring, as in all other cases in which chain work finds a place, the links of the chain were made by bending both ends of a length of wire into loops, in such fashion that the plane of the one loop was at right angles to the plane of the other (see Fig. –). In Pl. – C two other types of pendants are shown, which were found close to the side of the beads, and which may, or may not, have been earrings—namely the bronze disc (top row 2), and the two bronze binds (middle row).

The rings (see Pl. – A) were of various materials—bronze, iron, silver, bone, and twisted hair. Those of metal were in some cases case, but more often they consisted of a strand of wire loosely bent round to the required size. A few widened out into bezels, on which rough designs, usually animal motifs, were cut.

The bracelets were of bronze, iron, bone, ivory, and twisted palm. The metal ones were as a rule simply bent to the required dimension, and not fastened in any way, the ends in some cases overlapping considerably. In one instance, however (Pl. – A, top row, 5) the bracelet was bound throughout its entire circumference with bronze wire. Usually they were plain rings, without any attempt at ornamentation of any kind, but in some cases the ends were either thickened or worked as in Fig. –, and there were two instances of wide bezels (Fig. –). One bracelet had a bronze key attached to it. Those of palm were made by bending to a circle a thin strip of palm leaf, and binding it round and round with fiber.

Anklets were very rare. The few examples that were found were all of bronze, exactly similar in type to the simple form of bracelet.

C Miscellaneous

The pottery (see Pl. –) was scarce and fragmentary; and in no single instance was there a piece found in position with a burial. The fragments in photograph A were found scattered outside the entrance to the burial vault 3747 F, and the remainder in the upper filling of the graves or in the surface sand above them. Food offerings were clearly not a part of the mummy’s equipment, and it is to post-funereal visits to the grave, probably at the time of the three yearly festivals, that we owe the pottery here represented. Most of it was rough and crude, but there were a few pieces of a fine red highly polished ware (see for example the two handled vases and the half dish in e). This particular ware was generally decorated with incised patterns. The coarser variations were frequently ornamented with bands and splashes of white, and there were a few examples of plant motifs in black paint.

The ostraca on Pl. – a–e were also found in the upper filling of the graves. In each there is a date—presumably the date of burial. Mr. H. S. Evelyn-White translates them as follows:

[ed.: No translation included here in the original manuscript.]

In (a) and (b) of Pl. – are shown a group of decorated wooden objects, and found in the filling of a plundered grave (2049), consisting of a carding comb, a spinning wheel, and parts of a box (?) (sic). In (c) there are a number of similar fragments from various graves, including also a broken hair-comb. The only other wooden object that remained was the round box in Pl. – f.

Three perfect glass bottles were found, and pieces of two or three others (pl. – d). The bottles were molded (?) (sic): two of them were decorated with glass thread wound round the neck.

The bronze dipper in Pl. – f was found behind the head of the mummy in Grave 2417. The arm of the dipper was made of two lengths of wire, joined by twisting an end of each in a series of rings round the other. The wires were thus left free to slide, and the arm could be lengthened or shortened at will. The upper of the two wires were soldered to the bowl, and the lower ended in a hook handle.

VI Catalogue of Burials

[ed.: This is where Mace’s manuscript ends.]


Figure A1.1
Figure A1.1

Coptic monastery and cemetery (NED-B-8610)

Figure A1.2
Figure A1.2

Interior of Coptic church (NED-B-8242)

Figure A1.3
Figure A1.3

Interior of Coptic church (NED-B-8241)

Figure A1.4
Figure A1.4

Inscription above entrance to Coptic monastery (NED-C-8218)

Figure A1.5
Figure A1.5

Bindings 1 and 2

Drawing attributed to Lindsley Foote Hall
Figure A1.6
Figure A1.6

Binding 3, types 1 and 2

Drawing attributed to Lindsley Foote Hall
Figure A1.7
Figure A1.7

Bindings 4 and 5

Drawing attributed to Lindsley Foote Hall

John Pory’s translation. Vol. II p. 902.


Possible one of the numerous monasteries in the neighborhood of Ekhmim [ed.: Akhmim] could be identified from the description. That of Deir el Hadid for instance, on the east bank, south of Ekhmim, is almost exactly six miles from Menshieh.


Butler, Ancient Coptic Churches I, p. 298.


Butler, Ancient Coptic Churches II, p. 79.


For Gabriel, of course.


ⲥⲁⲥⲡ must be a mistake of the stone cutter for ⲥⲥⲁⲡⲥ︤ = ⲥⲟⲡⲥ︤, strictly ⲥⲉⲡⲥ︤.


ⲉⲧⲛⲁ, as it stands, should be translated “who will pray:” but I have no practical doubt that it is dialectic for ⲉⲧⲉⲧⲛⲉ–Fut. III with hortative meaning. For the dialect cf. ⲥⲁⲡⲥ︤ for ⲥⲟⲡⲥ. Where is the Dêr? In the Fayûm?


The correct phrase would be ⲉⲧⲉⲁⲡⲁ ⲉⲛⲱⲭ ⲡⲉ ⲡⲉⲡⲣⲉⲥⲃ. The mason has left out one ⲡⲉ, either the copula or the article.


In the eighteenth century, according to Pococke, the church seems to have been used regularly by the Girga Copts. In his “Travels in Egypt” he states—“We came to the poor little convent of Girge, on the east side, under the rocks. To this place the Copts of Girge come to church, not being allowed a church in the city.” [ed.: Pococke, Richard, A Description of the East, and Some Other Countries. Volume the First. Observations on Egypt, London, 1743, p. 82.]


Similar chambers are used by the Mohammedans.


In some districts of Upper Egypt wooden coffins are used. These are placed in an open pit, and not in a bricked off chamber.


This usage is very similar to that of the Mohammedans, who use red for women and white for men.


Local north that is to say, according to the direction of the river: strictly it is north-east, i.e. Jerusalem-wards. The Mohammedan position is very similar, but the right hand is placed under the head, and the face is turned to the east, towards Mecca.


See Vol. II in this series, page –.


These were contracted burials in oval reed baskets.


Gayet, Le Costume en Égypte du IIIe au XIIIe Siècle, p. 13.


The places of offerings in the early graves on this site were always on the west (i.e. the river) side.


The bodies which belong to the earlier centuries of the Christian era were very completely mummified, and it would be interesting to know when and why the practice of mummification was abandoned. In the present state of our knowledge, however, such speculation is valueless, and we must hope that in the near future this dark period in the archaeological history of the country may be satisfactorily filled up.


A sample of the preservative material was sent to M. Lucas, of the Egyptian Government Survey Department. We are indebted to him for the following note—“The sample consists essentially of two entirely separate and distinct substances, one of which is common salt (sodium chloride) containing small amounts of the usual impurities such as iron, lime and magnesia compounds, together with a little sulphate. This salt however does not contain any sodium carbonate and hence is free from natron. The other portion of the sample consists of small globular fruits much crushed and broken and each containing apparently three seeds. The exact number of seeds in the fruit however cannot be stated with certainty owing to its broken condition. This fruit has not been identified.”


See paper by Dr. Elliott-Smith in .


For a detailed description of the shirts and other garments see Chapter V.


The term “mummy” is misleading, but there is no other word available for a wrapped-up burial.


This must surely have been the type of garment referred to in St. John’s Gospel, Chap. 19, v. 23.


Laure E. Start, Coptic Cloths, p. 15 (Bankfield Museum Notes, Second Series, No. 4).


The possibility of drawn work was not lost sight of. There may have been instances of this, but there was no direct evidence for, and in the majority of cases very definite evidence against, such a possibility.


Samples of metals found in these graves were submitted to Mr. Lucas of the Egyptian Survey Department, and he reports on them as follows:

Circlet No. 2102,

These three have all approximately the same composition,

Bracelet No. 2747 F 3

and consist of an alloy of copper containing

Bracelet No. 2309

zinc and tin, together with traces of lead and iron.

Ring No. 2005

Consists of iron, but contains a trace of tin.

Finger ring No. 2002

Consists of an alloy of copper containing zinc and tin, together with a trace of lead.

Finger ring

Consists of silver which has been largely converted into silver chloride, but it also contains traces of copper and iron.