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This is a fragment from a much larger textile, of a type known to have been used for cushion and mattress covers. Here, the thickness points to a mattress cover. The weave, known in antiquity by the Greek term, polymita, literally '[woven with] many heddles', was the first with mechanically repeating designs to have been developed in the western world and may have had its origins in Alexandria. It had been known since the first century and this example, with three field designs and three border designs, each in two contrasting colours, provides a small repertoire of typical patterns: the various bands would have been arranged symmetrically down the length of the cover.
Fragment from a mattress cover, woven in blue and red wool on a buff-coloured ground. Diaper patterns of rosettes within octagons, quatrefoils within lozenges, and fret-ornament in blue; and curved leafy stems, zig-zag lines and geometrical ornament, in red. These patterns are arranged in horizontal bands, with plain stripes between.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Height: 405 mm, Width: 320 mm
300-699, Egyptian; Akhmim, compound wool tabby, octagons lozenges, blue
Labels and date
WOOLLENS, 4th-7th century.
Weft-faced compound tabby. Warp proportion: 2 main, 1 binding. Weft of 2 colours, i pick of each in turn. Wool \ spun. All the pieces were found in Egypt, the largest at Akhmim, the 2 smallest at Antinoe and the others at unrecorded sites. 
Textiles and Fashion Collection