Nephthys on Painted Linen

Nephthys on Painted Linen

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Panel painting

A panel painting is a painting made on a flat panel made of wood, either a single piece, or a number of pieces joined together. Until canvas became the more popular support medium in the 16th century, it was the normal form of support for a painting not on a wall (fresco) or vellum, which was used for miniatures in illuminated manuscripts and paintings for the framing.


Although no writing survived from the Predynastic Period in Egypt (c. 6000 – c. 3150 BCE), scholars believe the importance of the physical body and its preservation originated there. This likely explains why people of that time did not follow the common practice of cremation but rather buried the dead. Some also believe they may have feared the bodies would rise again if mistreated after death. [3]

Early bodies were buried in simple, shallow oval pits, with a few burial goods. Sometimes multiple people and animals were placed in the same grave. Over time, graves became more complex. At one point, bodies were placed in a wicker basket, but eventually bodies were places in wooden or terracotta coffins. The latest tombs Egyptians made were sarcophagi. These graves contained burial goods like jewellery, food, games and sharpened splint. [4]

Between the Predynastic Period and the Ptolemaic dynasty, there was a constant focus on eternal life and the certainty of personal existence beyond death. This belief in an afterlife is reflected in the burial of grave goods in tombs. The Egyptians' beliefs in an afterlife became known throughout the ancient world by way of trade and cultural transmission having an influence on other civilizations and religions. Notably, this belief became well known by way of the Silk Road. It was believed that individuals were admitted into the afterlife on the basis of being able to serve a purpose there. For example, the pharaoh was thought to be allowed into the afterlife because of his role as a ruler of Ancient Egypt, which would be a purpose translated into his afterlife.

Human sacrifices found in early royal tombs reinforce the idea of serving a purpose in the afterlife. Those sacrificed were probably meant to serve the pharaoh in his afterlife. Eventually, figurines and wall paintings begin to replace human victims. [5] Some of these figurines may have been created to resemble certain people, so they could follow the pharaoh after their lives ended.

Not only did the lower classes rely on the pharaoh's favor, but also the noble classes. They believed that when he died, the pharaoh became a sort of god who could bestow upon certain individuals the ability to have an afterlife. This belief existed from the predynastic period through the Old Kingdom.

Although many spells from the predeceasing texts were carried over, the new Coffin Texts also had additional new spells added, along with slight changes made to make this new funerary text more relatable to the nobility. [6] In the First Intermediate Period, however, the importance of the pharaoh declined. Funerary texts, previously restricted to royal use, became more widely available. The pharaoh was no longer a god-king in the sense that only he was allowed in the next life due to his status here, now he was merely the ruler of the population who upon his death would be leveled down towards the plane of the mortals. [7]

Prehistory, Earliest Burials Edit

The first funerals in Egypt are known from the villages of Omari and Maadi in the north, near present-day Cairo. The people of these villages buried their dead in a simple, round grave with a pot. The body was neither treated nor arranged in a particular way which would change later in the historical period. Without any written evidence, there is little to provide information about contemporary beliefs concerning the afterlife except for the regular inclusion of a single pot in the grave. Given later customs, the pot was probably intended to hold food for the deceased. [8]

Predynastic Period, Development of Customs Edit

Funerary customs were developed during the Predynastic period from those of the Prehistoric Period. At first, people excavated round graves with one pot in the Badarian Period (4400–3800 BC), continuing the tradition of Omari and Maadi cultures. By the end of the Predynastic period, there were increasing numbers of objects deposited with the body in rectangular graves, and there is growing evidence of rituals practiced by Egyptians of the Naqada II Period (3650–3300 BC). At this point, bodies were regularly arranged in a crouched or fetal position with the face toward either the east the rising sun or the west (which in this historical period was the land of the dead). Artists painted jars with funeral processions and perhaps ritual dancing. Figures of bare-breasted women with birdlike faces and their legs concealed under skirts also appeared. Some graves were much richer in goods than others, demonstrating the beginnings of social stratification. Gender differences in burial emerged with the inclusion of weapons in men's graves and cosmetic palettes in women's graves. [9]

By 3,600 BC, Egyptians had begun to mummify the dead, wrapping them in linen bandages with embalming oils (conifer resin and aromatic plant extracts). [10] [11]

Early Dynastic Period, Tombs and Coffins Edit

By the First Dynasty, some Egyptians were wealthy enough to build tombs over their burials rather than placing their bodies in simple pit graves dug into the sand. The rectangular, mudbrick tomb with an underground burial chamber called a mastaba developed in this period. These tombs had niched walls, a style of building called the palace-façade motif because the walls imitated those surrounding the palace of the king. Since commoners as well as kings, however, had such tombs, the architecture suggests that in death, some wealthy people did achieve an elevated status. Later in the historical period, it is certain that the deceased was associated with the god of the dead, Osiris.

Grave goods expanded to include furniture, jewelry, and games as well as the weapons, cosmetic palettes, and food supplies in decorated jars known earlier, in the Predynastic period. Now, however, in the richest tombs, grave goods numbered in the thousands. Only the newly invented coffins for the body were made specifically for the tomb. There is also some inconclusive evidence for mummification. Other objects in the tombs that had been used during daily life suggest that Egyptians already in the First Dynasty anticipated needing in the next life. Further continuity from this life into the next can be found in the positioning of tombs: those persons who served the king during their lifetimes chose burials close to their lord. The use of stela in front of the tomb began in the First Dynasty, indicating a desire to individualize the tomb with the deceased's name. [12]

Old Kingdom, Pyramids and Mummification Edit

In the Old Kingdom, kings first built pyramids for their tombs surrounded by stone mastaba tombs for their high officials. The fact that most high officials were also royal relatives suggests another motivation for such placement: these complexes were also family cemeteries.

Among the elite, bodies were mummified, wrapped in linen bandages, sometimes covered with molded plaster, and placed in stone sarcophagi or plain wooden coffins. At the end of the Old Kingdom, mummy masks in cartonnage (linen soaked in plaster, modeled and painted) also appeared. Canopic jars now held their internal organs. Amulets of gold, faience, and carnelian first appeared in various shapes to protect different parts of the body. There is also the first evidence of inscriptions inside the coffins of the elite during the Old Kingdom. Often, reliefs of everyday items were etched onto the walls supplemented grave goods, which made them available through their representation.

The new false door was a non-functioning stone sculpture of a door, found either inside the chapel or on the outside of the mastaba it served as a place to make offerings and recite prayers for the deceased. Statues of the deceased were now included in tombs and used for ritual purposes. Burial chambers of some private people received their first decorations in addition to the decoration of the chapels. At the end of the Old Kingdom, the burial chamber decorations depicted offerings, but not people. [13]

First Intermediate Period, Regional Variation Edit

The political situation in the First Intermediate Period, with many centers of power, is reflected in the many local styles of art and burial at this time. The many regional styles for decorating coffins make their origins easy to distinguish from each other. For example, some coffins have one-line inscriptions, and many styles include the depiction of Wadjet eyes (the human eye with the markings of a falcon). There are also regional variations in the hieroglyphs used to decorate coffins.

Occasionally men had tools and weapons in their graves, while some women had jewelry and cosmetic objects such as mirrors. Grindstones were sometimes included in women's tombs, perhaps to be considered a tool for food preparation in the next world, just as the weapons in men's tombs imply men's assignment to a role in fighting. [14]

Middle Kingdom, New Tomb Contents Edit

Burial customs in the Middle Kingdom reflect some of the political trends of this period. During the Eleventh Dynasty, tombs were cut into the mountains of Thebes surrounding the king's tomb or in local cemeteries in Upper and Middle Egypt Thebes was the native city of the Eleventh Dynasty kings, and they preferred to be buried there. But the Twelfth Dynasty, high officials served the kings of a new family now ruling from the north in Lisht these kings and their high officials preferred burial in a mastaba near the pyramids belonging to their masters. Moreover, the difference in topography between Thebes and Lisht led to a difference in tomb type: in the north, nobles build mastaba tombs on the flat desert plains, while in the south, local dignitaries continued to excavate tombs in the mountain.

For those of ranks lower than royal courtiers during the Eleventh Dynasty, tombs were simpler. Coffins could be simple wooden boxes with the body either mummified and wrapped in linen or simply wrapped without mummification, and the addition of a cartonnage mummy mask, a custom that continued until the Graeco-Roman period. Some tombs included wooded shoes and a simple statue near the body. In one burial there were only twelve loaves of bread, a leg of beef, and a jar of beer for food offerings. Jewelry could be included but only rarely were objects of great value found in non-elite graves. Some burials continued to include the wooden models that were popular during the First Intermediate Period. Wooden models of boats, scenes of food production, craftsmen and workshops, and professions such as scribes or soldiers have been found in the tombs of this period.

Some rectangular coffins of the Twelfth Dynasty have short inscriptions and representations of the most important offerings the deceased required. For men, the objects depicted were weapons and symbols of office as well as food. Women's coffins depicted mirrors, sandals, and jars containing food and drink. Some coffins included texts that were later versions of the royal Pyramid Texts.

Another kind of faience model of the deceased as a mummy seems to anticipate the use of shabti figurines (also called shawabti or an ushabti) later in the Twelfth Dynasty. These early figurines do not have the text directing the figure to work in the place of the deceased that is found in later figurines. The richest people had stone figurines that seem to anticipate shabtis, though some scholars have seen them as mummy substitutes rather than servant figures.

In the later Twelfth Dynasty, significant changes occurred in burials, perhaps reflecting administrative changes enacted by King Senwosret III (1836–1818 BC). The body was now regularly placed on its back, rather than its side as had been done for thousands of years. Coffin texts and wooden models disappeared from new tombs of the period while heart scarabs and figurines shaped like mummies were now often included in burials, as they would be for the remainder of Egyptian history. Coffin decoration was simplified. The Thirteenth Dynasty saw another change in decoration. Different motifs were found in the north and south, a reflection of decentralized government power at the time. There was also a marked increase in the number of burials in one tomb, a rare occurrence in earlier periods. The reuse of one tomb by a family over generations seems to have occurred when wealth was more equitably spread. [15]

Second Intermediate Period, Foreigner Burials Edit

Known graves from the Second Intermediate Period reveal the presence of non-Egyptians buried in the country. In the north, graves associated with the Hyksos, a western Semitic people ruling the north from the northeast delta, include small mudbrick structures containing the body, pottery vessels, a dagger in a men's graves and often a nearby donkey burial. Simple pan-shaped graves in various parts of the country are thought to belong to Nubian soldiers. Such graves reflect very ancient customs and feature shallow, round pits, bodies contracted and minimal food offerings in pots. The occasional inclusion of identifiable Egyptian materials from the Second Intermediate Period provides the only marks distinguishing these burials from those of Predynastic and even earlier periods. [16]

New Kingdom, New Object Purposes Edit

The majority of elite tombs in the New Kingdom were rock-cut chambers. Kings were buried in multi-roomed, rock-cut tombs in the Valley of the Kings and no longer in pyramids. Priests conducted funerary rituals for them in stone temples built on the west bank of the Nile opposite of Thebes. From the current evidence, the Eighteenth Dynasty appears to be the last period in which Egyptians regularly included multiple objects from their daily lives in their tombs beginning in the Nineteenth Dynasty, tombs contained fewer items from daily life and included objects made especially for the next world. Thus, the change from the Eighteenth to the Nineteenth Dynasties formed a dividing line in burial traditions: the Eighteenth Dynasty more closely remembered the immediate past in its customs whereas the Nineteenth Dynasty anticipated the customs of the Late Period.

People of the elite ranks in the Eighteenth Dynasty placed furniture as well as clothing and other items in their tombs, objects they undoubtedly used during life on earth. Beds, headrests, chairs, stools, leather sandals, jewelry, musical instruments, and wooden storage chests were present in these tombs. While all of the objects listed were for the elite, many poor people did not put anything beyond weapons and cosmetics into their tombs.

No elite tombs survive unplundered from the Ramesside period. In this period, artists decorated tombs belonging to the elite with more scene of religious events, rather than the everyday scene that had been popular since the Old Kingdom. The funeral itself, the funerary meal with multiple relatives, the worshipping of the gods, even figures in the underworld were subjects in elite tomb decorations. The majority of objects found in the Ramesside period tombs were made for the afterlife. Aside from the jewelry, which could have been used also during life, objects in Ramesside tombs were manufactured for the next world. [17]

Third Intermediate Period Edit

Although the political structure of the New Kingdom collapsed at the end of the Twentieth Dynasty, the majority of burials in the Twenty-first Dynasty directly reflect developments from the earlier period. At the beginning of this time, reliefs resembled those from the Ramesside period. Only at the very end of the Third Intermediate Period did new funerary practices of the Late Period begin to be seen.

Little is known of tombs from this period. The very lack of decorations in tombs seems to have led to much more elaborate decoration of coffins. The remaining grave goods of the period show fairly cheaply made shabtis, even when the owner was a queen or a princess. [18]

Late Period, Monumentality and Return to Traditions Edit

Burials in the Late Period could make use of large-scale, temple-like tombs built for the non-royal elite for the first time. But the majority of tombs in this period were in shafts sunk into the desert floor. In addition to fine statuary and reliefs reflecting the style of the Old Kingdom, the majority of grave goods were specially made for the tomb. Coffins continued to bear religious texts and scenes. Some shafts were personalized by the use of stela with the deceased prayers and name on it. Shabtis in faience for all classes are known. Canopic jars, though often nonfunctional, continued to be included. Staves and scepters representing the deceased's office in life were often present as well. A wooden figure of either the god Osiris [19] or of the composite deity Ptah-Sokar-Osiris could be found, [20] [21] along with heart scarabs, both gold and faience examples of djed-columns, Eye of Horus amulets, figures of gods, and images of the deceased's ba. Tools for the tomb's ritual called the "opening of the mouth" as well as "magical bricks" at the four compass points could be included. [22]

Ptolemaic Period, Hellenistic Influences Edit

Following Egypt's conquest by Alexander the Great, the country was ruled by the descendants of Ptolemy, one of his generals. The Macedonian Greek family fostered a culture that promoted both Hellenistic and ancient Egyptian ways of life: while many Greek-speaking people living in Alexandria followed the customs of mainland Greece, others adopted Egyptian customs, while Egyptians continued to follow their own already ancient customs.

Very few Ptolemaic tombs are known. Fine temple statuary of the period suggests the possibility of tomb sculpture and offering tables. Egyptian elite burials still made use of stone sarcophagi. Books of the Dead and amulets were also still popular. [23]

Roman Period, Roman Influences Edit

The Romans conquered Egypt in 30 BC, ending the rule of the last and most famous member of the Ptolemaic dynasty, Cleopatra VII. During Roman rule, an elite hybrid burial style developed incorporating both Egyptian and Roman elements.

Some people were mummified and wrapped in linen bandages. The front of the mummy was often painted with a selection of traditional Egyptian symbols. Mummy masks in either traditional Egyptian style or Roman style could be added to the mummies. Another possibility was a Roman-style mummy portrait, executed in encaustic (pigment suspended in wax) on a wooden panel. Sometimes the feet of the mummy was covered. An alternative to this was a complete shroud with Egyptian motifs but a portrait in the Roman style. Tombs of the elite could also include fine jewelry. [24]

Greek historians Herodotus (5th century BC) and Diodorus Siculus (1st century BC) provide the most complete surviving evidence of how ancient Egyptians approached the preservation of a dead body. [25] Before embalming, or preserving the dead body as to delay or prevent decay, mourners, especially if the deceased had high status, covered their faces with mud, and paraded around town while beating their chests. [25] If the wife of a high-status male died, her body was not embalmed until three or four days have passed, because this prevented abuse of the corpse. [25] In the case that someone drowned or was attacked, embalming was carried out immediately on their body, in a sacred and careful manner. This kind of death was viewed as venerated, and only priests were permitted to touch the body. [25]

After embalming, the mourners may have carried out a ritual involving an enactment of judgement during the Hour Vigil, with volunteers to play the role of Osiris and his enemy brother Set, as well as the gods Isis, Nephthys, Horus, Anubis, and Thoth. [26] As the tale goes, Set was envious of his brother Osiris for being granted the throne before him, so he plotted to kill him. Osiris's wife, Isis, battled back and forth with Set to gain possession of Osiris's body, and through this struggle, Osiris's spirit was lost. [27] Nonetheless, Osiris resurrected and was reinstated as a god. [28] In addition to the reenactment of the judgement of Osiris, numerous funeral processions were conducted throughout the nearby necropolis, which symbolized different sacred journeys. [26]

The funeral procession to the tomb generally included cattle pulling the body in a sledge-type of carrier, with friends and family to follow. During the procession, the priest burned incense and poured milk before the dead body. [26] Upon arrival to the tomb, and essentially the next life, the priest performed the Opening of the mouth ceremony on the deceased. The deceased's head was turned towards the south, and the body was imagined to be a statue replica of the deceased. Opening the mouth of the deceased symbolized allowing the person to speak and defend themselves during the judgement process. Goods were then offered to the deceased to conclude the ceremony. [26]

Embalming Edit

The preservation of a dead body was critical if the deceased wanted a chance at acceptance into the afterlife. Within the Ancient Egyptian concept of the soul, ka, which represented vitality, leaves the body once the person dies. [29] Only if the body is embalmed in a specific fashion will ka return to the deceased body, and rebirth will take place. [25] The embalmers received the body after death, and in a systematized manner, prepared it for mummification. The family and friends of the deceased had a choice of options that ranged in price for the preparation of the body, similar to the process at modern funeral homes. Next, the embalmers escorted the body to ibw, translated to “place of purification,” a tent in which the body was washed, and then per nefer, “the House of Beauty,” where mummification took place. [25]

Mummification process Edit

In order to live for all eternity and be presented in front of Osiris, the body of the deceased had to be preserved by mummification, so that the soul could reunite with it, and take pleasure in the afterlife. The main process of mummification was preserving the body by dehydrating it using natron, a natural salt found in Wadi Natrun. The body was drained of any liquids and left with the skin, hair and muscles preserved. [30] The mummification process is said to have taken up to seventy days. During this process, special priests worked as embalmers as they treated and wrapped the body of the deceased in preparation for burial.

The process of mummification was available for anyone who could afford it. It was believed that even those who could not afford this process could still enjoy the afterlife with the right reciting of spells. Mummification existed in three different processes, ranging from most expensive, moderately expensive, and most simplistic, or cheapest. [25] The most classic, common, and most expensive method of mummification dates back to the 18th Dynasty. The first step was to remove the internal organs and liquid so that the body would not decay. After being laid out on a table, the embalmers took out the brain through a process named excerebration by inserting a metal hook through the nostril, breaking through it into the brain. They removed as much as they could with the hook, and the rest they liquefied with drugs and drained out. [25] They threw out the brain because they thought that the heart did all the thinking. The next step was to remove the internal organs, the lungs, liver, stomach, and intestines, and place them in canopic jars with lids shaped like the heads of the protective deities, the four sons of Horus: Imsety, Hapy, Duamutef, and Qebhseneuf. Imsety was human-headed, and guarded the liver Hapy was ape-headed, and guarded the lungs Duamutef was jackal-headed, and guarded the stomach Qebhseneuf was hawk-headed, and guarded the small and large intestines. [25] Sometimes the four canopic jars were placed into a canopic chest, and buried with the mummified body. A canopic chest resembled a "miniature coffin" and was intricately painted. The Ancient Egyptians believed that by burying the deceased with their organs, they may rejoin with them in the afterlife. [26] Other times, the organs were cleaned and cleansed, and then returned into the body. [25] The body cavity was then rinsed and cleaned with wine and an array of spices. The body was sewn up with aromatic plants and spices left inside. [25] The heart stayed in the body, because in the hall of judgement, it would be weighed against the feather of Maat. After the body was washed with wine, it was stuffed with bags of natron. The dehydration process took 40 days. [27]

The second part of the process took 30 days. This was the time where the deceased turned into a semi divine being, and all that was left in the body from the first part was removed, followed by applying first wine and then oils. The oils were for ritual purposes, as well as for preventing the limbs and bones from breaking while being wrapped. The body was sometimes colored with a golden resin, which protected the body from bacteria and insects. Additionally, this practice was based on the belief that divine beings had flesh of gold. Next, the body was wrapped in linen cut into strips with amulets while a priest recited prayers and burned incense. The linen was adhered to the body using gum, opposed to a glue. [25] The dressing provided the body physical protection from the elements, and depending on how wealthy the deceased's family was, the deceased could be dressed with an ornamented funeral mask and shroud. [25] Special care was given to the head, hands, feet, and genitals, as contemporary mummies reveal extra wrappings and paddings in these areas. [31] Mummies were identified via small, wooden name-tags tied typically around the deceased's neck. [25] The 70-day process is connected to Osiris and the length the star Sothis was absent from the sky. [28]

The second, moderately expensive option for mummification did not involve an incision into the abdominal cavity or the removal of the internal organs. Instead, the embalmers injected the oil of a cedar tree into the body, which prevented liquid from leaving the body. The body was then laid in natron for a specific number of days. The oil was then drained out of the body, and with it came the internal organs, the stomach and the intestines, which were liquefied by the cedar oil. The flesh dissolved in the natron, which left only skin and bones left of the deceased body. The remains are given back to the family. [25] The cheapest, most basic method of mummification, which was often chosen by the poor, involved purging out the deceased's internal organs, and then laying the body in natron for 70 days. The body was then given back to the family. [25]

Animal mummification Edit

Animals were mummified in Ancient Egypt for many reasons. Household pets that held a special important to their owners were buried alongside them. However, animals were not only viewed as pets but as incarnations of the gods. Therefore, these animals were buried to honor ancient Egyptian deities. Some animal mummifications were performed to serve as sacred offerings to the gods who often took the form of animals such as cats, frogs, cows, baboons, and vultures. Other animals were mummified with the intention of being a food offering to humans in the afterlife. Additionally, household pets that held a special important to their owners were buried alongside them.

Several kinds of animal remains have been discovered in tombs all around Dayr al-Barsha, a Coptic village in Middle Egypt. The remains found in the shafts and burial chambers included dogs, foxes, eagle owls, bats, rodents, and snakes. These were determined to be individuals that had entered the deposits by accident. Other animal remains that were found were more common and recurred more than those individuals that wound up accidentally trapped in these tombs. These remains included numerous gazelle and cattle bones, as well as calves and goats which were believed to have been in result of human behavior. This was due to finding that some remains had fragments altered, missing, or separated from their original skeletons. These remains also had traces of paint and cut marks on them, seen especially with cattle skulls and feet. Based on this, the natural environment of the Dayr al-Barsha tombs, and the fact that only some parts of these animals were found, the possibility of natural deposition can be ruled out, and the cause of these remains in fact are most likely caused by animal sacrifices, as only the head, foreleg, and feet were apparently selected for deposition within the tombs. According to a study by Christopher Eyre, cattle meat was actually not a part of the daily diet in Ancient Egypt, as the consumption of meat only took place during celebrations including funerary and mortuary rituals, and the practice of providing the deceased with offerings of cattle going back to the Predynastic Period. [32]

After the mummy was prepared, it would need to be re-animated, symbolically, by a priest. The opening of the mouth ceremony was conducted by a priest who would utter a spell and touch the mummy or sarcophagus with a ceremonial adze – a copper or stone blade. This ceremony ensured that the mummy could breathe and speak in the afterlife. In a similar fashion, the priest could utter spells to reanimate the mummy's arms, legs, and other body parts.

The priests, maybe even the king's successor, proceeded to move the body through the causeway to the mortuary temple. This is where prayers were recited, incense was burned, and more rituals were performed to help prepare the king for his final journey. The king's mummy was then placed inside the pyramid along with enormous amount of food, drink, furniture, clothes, and jewelry which were to be used in the afterlife. The pyramid was sealed so that no one would ever enter it again. However, the king's soul could move through the burial chamber as it wished. After the funeral the king becomes a god and could be worshipped in the temples beside his pyramid. [33]

In ancient times Egyptians were buried directly in the ground. Since the weather was so hot and dry, it was easy for the bodies to remain preserved. Usually the bodies would be buried in the fetal position. [34] Ancient Egyptians believed the burial process to be an important part in sending humans to a comfortable afterlife. The Egyptians believed that, after death, the deceased could still have such feelings of anger, or hold a grudge as the living. The deceased were also expected to support and help their living family. [35] They believed that the Ba and Ka are what enabled the dead to support their family. The Ba made it possible for an invisible twin to be released from the body to support the family, while the Ka would recognize the twin when it would come back to the body. [36] With the ideas of the dead being so valuable, it is clear why the Egyptians treated the deceased with respect. The less fortunate Egyptians still wanted their family members to be given a proper burial. A typical burial would be held in the desert where the family would wrap the body in a cloth and bury it with everyday objects for the dead to be comfortable. [37] Although some could afford mummification, most commoners were not mummified due to the expense. [38] Often the poor are found in mass graves where their bodies are not mummified and only with minimal household objects, spread out throughout the desert, often in areas that are now populated. [ citation needed ]

The tomb was the housing for the deceased and served two crucial functions: the tomb provided infinite protection for the deceased to rest, as well as a place for mourners to perform rituals in which aided the deceased into eternal life. Therefore, the ancient Egyptians were very serious about the way in which the tombs were built. [39] Two hallmarks of the tomb included: a burial chamber, which housed the physical body of the deceased (inside a coffin) as well as funerary objects deemed most important, and a "cult place," which resembled a chapel where mourners, family, and friends could congregate. The tomb of a king included a full temple, instead of a chapel. [39]

Typically, the tomb of a deceased person was located somewhere close by their home community. The ancient Egyptians opted to bury the deceased in land that was not particularly fertile or useful for vegetation. Therefore, tombs were mostly built in desert areas. Tombs were usually built near each other and rarely stood alone. For a deceased king, however, the tomb was located in a place of utmost sacredness. [39]

In the Prehistoric Egypt, bodies were buried in deserts because they would naturally be preserved by dehydration. The "graves" were small oval or rectangular pits dug in the sand. They could give the body of the deceased in a tight position on its left side alongside a few jars of food and drink and slate palettes with magical religious spells. The size of graves eventually increased according to status and wealth. The dry, desert conditions were a benefit in ancient Egypt for burials of the poor, who could not afford the complex burial preparations that the wealthy had.

The simple graves evolved into mudbrick structures called mastabas. Royal mastabas later developed into step pyramids and then "true pyramids." [40] As soon as a king took the throne he would start to build his pyramid. Rituals of the burial, including the "Opening of the mouth ceremony" took place at the Valley Temple. [33] [41] While a pyramid's large size was made to protect against robbery, it may also be connected to a religious belief about the sun god, Ra. [42]

A majority of cemeteries were located on the west bank of the Nile, which was metaphorically viewed as "the realm of the dead." The tomb was said to represent the deceased's place in the cosmos, which ultimately depended on the social class of the deceased. If the deceased was of a notably high-class, they were buried near the king, whereas middle and lower class individuals were simply buried near the communities in which they had lived. [39] In many cases, the tombs of the high-class were situated in accordance with the tombs of the lower classes so that they would be viewed as a "focal point." For example, one burial site was designed so that the tombs of the governors were placed alongside the slope of a hill, whereas the tombs of the governor's attendants were placed at the foot of the hill. [39]

After having been preserved, the mummy was placed into a coffin. Although the coffins that housed the deceased bodies were made simply of wood, they were intricately painted and designed to suit each individual. During the Old Kingdom, the following was included on each coffin: the title of the deceased, a list of offerings, a false compartment through which ka could pass through, and painted eyes so that the deceased could look through the coffin. [43] The decorations on the coffin usually fit the deceased's status.

During the Middle Kingdom, the coffin was treated as if it were a "miniature tomb" and was painted and inscribed like so. Goddesses Isis and Nephthys were painted on the coffins, and were said to guard the deceased in the afterlife. Along the sides of the coffins, the four sons of Horus were painted, amongst other gods. Prayers were often inscribed on the coffins as well. [43]

Anthropoid coffins soon emerged, which were tailored to the contour of the deceased's body. The deceased's face and hair was painted onto the coffin so to personalize it further. [43] A sarcophagus, which is a large, stone container, was used to house the coffin, and provide supplementary protection to the dead body. The Ancient Egyptians translated the word "sarcophagus" to mean "possessor of life," and therefore, the sarcophagus would aid the deceased into the afterlife. [44]

One of the funerary practices followed by the Egyptians was preparing properly for the afterlife. Ka, the vital force within the Ancient Egyptian concept of the soul, would not return to the deceased body if embalming was not carried out in the proper fashion. [29] In this case, the body decayed, and possibly became unrecognizable, which rendered the afterlife unattainable for the deceased person. [25] If the proper precautions were not taken, damnation would occur. Damnation meant that Egyptians would not experience the glories of the afterlife where they became a deified figure and would be welcomed by the Gods. [45] Instead, damnation was depicted in the books of the underworld. It was a place of opposites chaos, fire, and struggle. [45] Different pages of the books of the underworld depict different perspectives of what happens during damnation. It discusses cutting out humanity and individuality from the person and reversing the cosmic order. [45]

The idea of judgement went as follows: in order to be considered for the admittance into the afterlife, those who died were obligated to undergo a multi-step judgement by certain gods. [39] The concept and belief in judgement is outlined in the Book of the Dead, a funerary text of the New Kingdom. The Book of the Dead is composed of spells relating to the deceased and the afterlife. Spell 125, in particular, is understood to be delivered by the deceased at the outset of the judgement process. [39]

The visual picture of what judgement looks like has been discovered through ancient Egyptian ruins and artefacts. The procedure was depicted as follows: the deceased's heart was weighed in comparison to the feather of Maat, while Ammit awaited to eat the heart (if the deceased was found to be a sinner). [39] Osiris was the judge (among others), and represented an ideal output of the judgement process for the deceased who entered his judgement hall. This is because he resurrected and regained his godly status after he was justified against his brother Set, who wrongly murdered him. [28] The deceased pleaded to Osiris that they had not committed sin, which is known as a "negative confession." [28] The forty-two Assessors of Maat judged how virtuous the life of the deceased was, and this represented the principal element of the deceased entering the afterlife. After passing judgement, the family and friends of the deceased celebrated them and boasted about their righteousness to attain entry into the afterlife. [25]

Many mummies were provided with some form of funerary literature to take with them to the afterlife. Most funerary literature consists of lists of spells and instructions for navigating the afterlife. During the Old Kingdom, only the pharaoh had access to this material, which scholars refer to as the Pyramid Texts. The Pyramid Texts are a collection of spells to assure the royal resurrection and protect the pharaoh from various malignant influences. The Pharaoh Unas was the first to use this collection of spells, as he and a few subsequent pharaohs had them carved on the walls of their pyramids. [46] These texts were individually chosen from a larger bank of spells.

In the First Intermediate Period and in the Middle Kingdom, some of the Pyramid Text spells also are found in burial chambers of high officials and on many coffins, where they begin to evolve into what scholars call the Coffin Texts. In this period, the nobles and many non-royal Egyptians began to have access to funerary literature. Although many spells from the earlier texts were carried over, the new coffin texts also had additional spells, along with slight changes made to make this new funerary text more fit for the nobility. [6]

In the New Kingdom, the Coffin Texts became the Book of the Dead, or the Funeral Papyri, and would last through the Late Kingdom. The text in these books was divided according to chapters/ spells, which were almost two-hundred in number. Each one of these texts was individualized for the deceased, though to varying degrees. If the person was rich enough, then they could commission their own personal version of the text that would include only the spells that they wanted. However, if one was not so wealthy, then one had to make do with the pre-made versions that had spaces left for the name of the deceased.

If the scribe ran out of room while doing the transcription, he would just stop the spell wherever he was and would not continue. [47] It is not until the Twenty-sixth Dynasty that there began to be any regulation of the order or even the number of spells that were to be included in the Book of the Dead. At this time, the regulation is set at 192 spells to be placed in the book, with certain ones holding the same place at all times. [48] This makes it seem as if the order of the texts was not what was important, so the person could place them in an order that he was comfortable with, but rather that it was what was written that mattered.

Although the types of burial goods changed throughout ancient Egyptian history, their purpose to protect the deceased and provide sustenance in the afterlife remained.

From the earliest periods of Egyptian history, all Egyptians were buried with at least some goods that they thought were necessary after death. At a minimum, these consisted of everyday objects such as bowls, combs, and other trinkets, along with food. Wealthier Egyptians could afford to be buried with jewelry, furniture, and other valuables, which made them targets of tomb robbers. In the early Dynastic Period, tombs were filled with daily life objects, such as furniture, jewelry and other valuables. They also contained many stone and pottery vessels. [49] One important factor in the development of Ancient Egyptian tombs was the need of storage space for funerary goods.

As burial customs developed in the Old Kingdom, wealthy citizens were buried in wooden or stone coffins. However, the number of burial goods declined. They were often just a set of copper models, tools and vessels. [50] Starting in the First Intermediate period, wooden models became very popular burial goods. These wooden models often depict everyday activities that the deceased expected to continue doing in the afterlife. Also, a type of rectangular coffin became the standard, being brightly painted and often including an offering formula. Objects of daily use were not often included in the tombs during this period.

At the end of the Middle Kingdom, new object types were introduced into burials, such as the first shabtis and the first heart scarabs. Shabtis were little clay statues made to perform tasks on command for the pharaoh. Now objects of daily use appear in tombs again, often magical items already employed for protecting the living. Scarabs (beetles) collect animal dung and roll it into little balls. To the Egyptians, these balls looked like the life-giving Sun, so they hoped that scarabs would bring them long life. Scarabs have been found in tombs and graves. [51]

In the New Kingdom, some of the old burial customs changed. For example, an anthropoid coffin shape became standardized, and the deceased were provided with a small shabti statue, which the Egyptians believed would perform work for them in the afterlife. Elite burials were often filled with objects of daily use. Under Ramesses II and later all daily life objects disappear from tombs. They most often only contained a selection of items especially made for the burial. Also, in later burials, the numbers of shabti statues increased in some burials, numbering more than four hundred statues. In addition to these shabti statues, the deceased could be buried with many different types of magical figurines to protect them from harm.

Funerary boats were a part of some ancient Egyptian burials. [52] Boats played a major role in Egyptian religion because they were conceived as the main means by which the gods traveled across the sky and through to the netherworld. One type of boat used at funerals was for making pilgrimages to holy sites such as Abydos. A large funerary boat, for example, was found near the pyramid of the Old Kingdom Pharaoh Khufu. The funerary boats were usually made of wood the Egyptians used a collection of papyrus reeds and tied them together with the wood very tightly. [53] The most common route for funerary boats was the River Nile to the afterlife. The boat carried the coffin and often had a dog in the boat since they believed a dog would lead the deceased to the afterlife. [54] The boats usually measured about 20 feet or longer. These however did not match those of the great pharaohs like Pharaoh Khufu (who built the Great Pyramid). His funerary boat was approximately 144 foot long with 12 oars. Common funerary boats were smaller sized with few oars. [55]

At the Ure Museum, there is an Egyptian funerary boat on display that represents a typical tomb offering. This boat symbolizes the transport of the dead from life to the afterlife. In Ancient Egypt death was seen as a boat journey. More specifically, it was seen as a trip across their River Nile that joined the North and South. This funerary boat offering was added to the museum's collection in 1923 from the Liverpool Institute of Archaeology from the Tomb of the Officials at Beni Hassan.

Through the study of mummies themselves in addition to ancient writers and modern scientists, a better understanding of the Ancient Egyptian mummification process is promoted. The majority of what is known to be true about the mummification process is based on the writing of early historians who carefully recorded the processes-- one of which was Herodotus. Now, modern day archaeologists are using the writings of early historians as a basis for their study. The advancement of new technology including x-rays has allowed for the analysis of mummies without destroying the elaborate outer wrappings of the body. In addition to the use of x-rays, autopsies are also being performed in order to gain a better understanding of the diseases suffered by Ancient Egyptians as well as the treatments used for these diseases. A pregnant mummy sheds light on pregnancy complications and prenatal care and treatments. [56] [57] In learning their age of death, experts are able to create a timeline of the dates regarding the ruling of Egyptian kings. In looking at the bones of the mummified bodies, experts get a better idea of the average height and life span. Studying Ancient Egyptian Mummies, archaeologists are able to learn about the past.

All the times artists used blood for radical work

Blood drips with symbolism. Blood animates the veins of the living, and through its sacrificial letting, can connect us with the sacred. Mesoamerican cultures drenched the earth with ritualistic blood shedding Catholic ceremonies transform wine into the blood of Christ. Despite its consecrated role in religion and ritual, within our modern institutions blood has become a hazardous pathogen, a dirty disease-carrier. Blood has been sanitised from most of our daily doings the risk and power of blood flows quarantined in our veins.

Artists use blood in their work to physicalise its stakes, to add to its aura. There’s something risky about using blood, something dangerous in its potential impurity. Most viewers find bloodied work icky and off-putting—which is ironic given that, like all bodily fluids, we all carry them within. The grossness around blood is connected to the grossness we've been programmed to feel about our own bodies it's a side effect of alienation. Art that’s splattered with blood shocks us back into our corporeality.

For artists, blood presents a host of challenges and liabilities. It is, for example, illegal to transport blood and other biohazard substances using government bureaucracies. Plus, given that its organic matter, blood doesn’t conserve easily. The artist’s historical attraction to blood, then, isn’t one of convenience, but rather, one of risk-taking. Post-AIDS, blood-dripped art is often deemed political. This is especially true for women, who’ve unsurprisingly recycled the biological waste of their monthly cycles into material for art about their condition. As a nod to the bloodied delights of Halloween, here's eight artworks made with the horror and power of gore.

Andres Serrano, Blood and Semen V


Best known for his controversial series of pissing Christ portraits, Andres Serrano’s work muddles with the sacrilegious. Bodily fluids drench his images, often at the cost of public incitement over his use of religious iconography. But other works, like this one included in the series Blood and Semen, remove the fluids from any corporeal or religious context, allowing the blood to stain in hauntingly abstract compositions. Although the meaning of the image is left up to interpretation, Serrano did play with blood when the threat of AIDS was filling public consciousness, giving the piece a certain threatening air.

Franko B - I’m Not Your Babe


Franko B’s use of ritualistic blood letting bleeds into the disturbed, making use of the theatrical, propping himself as a "mute body-object" that is, drop by drop, disintegrated on stage. Although blood is often marked with dirtiness, for Franko, his performative bleeding is closer to the ancient medical practices of cleansing the body through the draining of blood. As always, blood carries the disease, but here, cleansing can come from its shedding.

Ana Mendieta – Body Tracks


Ana Mendieta performed Body Tracks in 1982 New York City — all the press release warned was that "white cloth and animal blood" would be used. In the performance, Mendieta thoroughly dipped her hands into the mixture of animal blood and tempera and dragged her hand across three sheets of paper affixed to the wall. At first she made handprints, and then pressed her body down the paper, leaving a corporeal trace — literally tracks of her body — across the work. The use of blood only underlined the physicality of the work. Our blood always leaves a trace.

Hermann Nitsch


Hermann Nitsch is a multimedia artist and performer associated with the Viennese Actionists — a collective known for its brutal and bloody performances that included crucifying animal carcasses and ripping them apart. Blood Picture is one of the first works Nitsch made with blood. He soaked the canvas in it, and later splashed on more, leaving a dried painting that resembled used medical gauze. It's unclear whether the blood is his own.

Tracey Emin’s "My Bed"


The bad girl of the Young British Artists made one of her biggest splashes when she submitted this sculpture into the 1999 Turner Prize competition. The work is often lauded for its honesty. Emin displayed an unpolished peep into her bedroom — blood-stained underwear and all. It is an unconventional form of self-portraiture, giving the viewer a glimpse into Emin’s chaos. Here, Emin uses blood to raise the stakes of the real and blood becomes a voucher for artistic daringness and authenticity.

Kiki Smith, "Blood Pool"


Despite not actually using any blood to make this piece, Kiki Smith's fetal-like sculpture connotes all of the texture and color of fresh flesh. With the title, Blood Pool, you can almost imagine the cuddled child swaddling in a pool of its own blood. The back of the wax sculpture features an exposed spine, adding to the fragility and spookiness of the piece. This sentiment is especially salient given that it was made in the wake of the AIDS crisis, where blood represented both life and death.

Gina Pane, Action Psyche


Gina Pane was fascinated with self-mortification. Her art is excruciating, both for the viewer and for the artist, whose performances comprise of her cutting herself across her body. This self-enacted violence undercuts the stereotype of feminine passivity by countering it with extreme aggression. Pane plays with masochism, letting her blood be witness to our culture’s sedated relationship to witnessing everyday violence.

Christen Clifford, I Want Your Blood


Christen Clifford leads a new wave of feminist performance art steeped in the politics of menstruation. In I Want Your Blood, a performance in three parts, Clifford has for the past year collected several women’s menstrual blood, addressing and undermining the stigma attached to our periods. The collected samples of blood will be bottled together in glass containers, poured into little perfume vials, and, as Clifford did in a recent performance, used as paint to dip willing young men as paint brushes a-la Yves Klein. Breaking with past uses of blood, that reveres its risk and dirtiness, Clifford hopes for a celebration and reclamation of our own menstruation.

Portia Munson, Menstrual Print With Text


Portia Munson’s practice hones in on her avarice for amassing. She’s best known for collecting hundreds of colour-coded objects, creating sculptures that accumulate hues. For this projec, she also collected her menstrual blood. Starting in the late 1980s, Munson made menstrual prints every month for about 8 years. She made these prints by pressing sheets of paper against my body while the blood was flowing. For exhibitions, Munson would display each month's prints in a grid on the wall to resemble a calendar. For this work, Munson inscribed a text that names both personal and historical narratives about menstruation and menstrual rites. The personal elements largely focused on dreams that I had that related to menstruation. Each print reads like a Rorschach, resembling creatures both touching and spooky, like an angel, or a bird, or a bat.

Art History of The Ahwahnee in Yosemite

In addition to being situated in one of the most picturesque landscapes on earth and designated as a National Historic Landmark, The Ahwahnee also boasts an amazing art collection that complements the architecture of the hotel. Did you know that The Ahwahnee displays one of the greatest Persian rug collections in the world? Though the design motifs found throughout the hotel are inspired by Native American patterns, the geometric patterns found in kilims, soumaks, kalamkars and other Middle Eastern rugs blend in seamlessly. The hotel’s original decorators – Dr. Phyllis Ackerman and Dr. Arthur Upham Pope – were experts in Persian arts and selected a variety of Persian rugs for the hotel’s public spaces since there wasn’t enough time before the grand opening to have Navajo rugs created. The Ahwahnee required fifty-nine rugs in total at opening and they were purchased in New York in 1927, ranging in price from 48.75 to $93.75 for a total of $5659. Today, many of the original rugs are displayed in the hotel’s public spaces mounted on the walls. Some are fully framed and the remnants of others are framed that proved too fragile over time.

Persian rug from the hotel’s original decor on display in the Mural Room.

The geometric patterns found in the rugs also inspired six art deco mosaic floor designs created by Henry Temple Howard with a special patent-pending process that combined linoleum, cork, clay, sawdust and linseed oil. Referred to as “rubber tile”, the mosaic designs were based on basket patterns from the Yurok, Hupa and Pomo tribes of California. Baskets and basket patterns are prominently displayed throughout the hotel to this day. U.C. Berkeley graduate Jeannette Dyer Spencer created the striking basket mural above the fireplace in the elevator lobby and the equally colorful stencil patterns found on the walls and ceilings throughout the hotel. Spencer made such a great impression with her work that she was hired permanently as the hotel’s interior decorator after the opening of the hotel on July 14, 1927. The baskets currently on display in the Great Lounge represent the basket artistry of California tribes such as Miwok, Pomo, Mono, Hupa and Yokuts, and another Native American tribe is also represented by the Pima of Arizona.

Floor mosaic at The Ahwahnee.

Basket mural by Jeannette Dyer Spencer.

Native American baskets on display in the Great Lounge at The Ahwahnee.

Though not placed in the hotel as part of the original decor, the watercolor paintings of Gunnar Widforss now line the hallway from the registration lobby to the Dining Room and Great Lounge. A Swedish artist who preferred painting landscapes such as the Grand Canyon was already famous by the time he arrived in Yosemite. Widforss was contracted by the Yosemite Park and Curry Company to create paintings of Yosemite suitable for the grand scale of The Ahwahnee architecture and the landscape that surrounds it.

Vernal Fall by Gunnar Widforss.

The Mural Room, once known as the Writing Room, features a toile pente (painted linen) mural on the wall created by Robert Boardman Howard for the hotel’s opening in 1927. The fifteenth century style of the mural features the native flora and fauna of Yosemite National Park in a pattern of flowering plants with animals large and small, serving not only as historic decor, but also as a nature guide to Yosemite. The Mural Room also features a unique corner fireplace with a hammered-copper hood and the only oak floor in the hotel’s public spaces.

Detail of the mural by Robert Boardman Howard on the wall of the Mural Room.

Though all of the decor delights park visitors in the public areas of the hotel, the most striking decorative element is the custom 5 x 6 foot stained glass panels that cap the ten floor-to-ceiling windows of the Great Lounge. Also designed by Jeannette Dyer Spencer, the stained glass panels were a last minute addition to hotel architect Gilbert Stanley Underwood’s original design. Though Spencer went on to contribute to the Ahwahnee decor in many areas, she was initially selected by Ackerman and Pope specifically for her background in stained glass design. Her selection and design experience provided The Ahwahnee with one of its most enduring artistic elements.


Of greatest concern are the chemicals used in retting. These chemicals must be neutralized before being released into water supplies. The stalks, leaves, seed pods, etc. are natural organic materials and are not hazardous unless impregnated with much of the chemicals left behind in the retting process. The only other concern with the processing of linen is the smell—it is said that hand-retted linen produces quite a stench and is most unpleasant to experience.

The Original Organic Paint

Versatile and made from casein, a dairy protein, milk paint has a long history of use on furniture, walls, even exterior cladding. When mixed with natural earth pigments, milk paint has a unique, flat finish with subtle variations in shading that suggest the patina of age.

Milk paints are most familiar in the colors of the earth, particularly oxide-containing clays, but the palette isn&rsquot limited to these tones. Since the paint comes in dry powder form, the painter has complete control over the outcome, including the creation of custom tones, tints or shades, and opacity. For example, simply varying the amount of water added to the mix can result in effects from translucence to a soft color wash, or to an opaque solid color.

Before pre-mixed, store-bought paints were common, colors were mixed by hand. Here a muller is used to grind dry pigments into the binder (e.g., oil, casein).

Milk paints are especially prized because they don&rsquot fade over time. Because the paint bonds to porous surfaces like wood, it won&rsquot chip or peel, either. It does, however, stain easily. Most companies recommend that it be sealed in high-traffic areas, and offer complementary lines of sealants.

In the past, homeowners added linseed oil or tar derivatives to strengthen milk paint&rsquos durability for outdoor use. Today, at least one milk paint company, Olde Century Colors, offers an acrylic latex milk paint. The colors and appearance are typical of the past, but the paint has all the durability of modern formulations.

To recreate Scandi style

Therefore, to recreate Scandi style for your home, remember the mantra of light, white, texture, natural finishes and simplicity and you can start to get a feel of how to successfully incorporate this look.

Do you love Scandi style? Let me know how you have used this in your decorating schemes – I would love to hear from you in the comments section below.

You should always start any decorating project with a mood board. Find out how to put one together with my FREE e-book which can be downloaded here from my FREE Resource Library.

If you still need assistance, I offer an e-consultation service to help you with your decorating project, renovation or new build. From answering one key question that is troubling you to putting together a full colour scheme, I have a package to suit you. Or I can tailor something especially for you. Find out more here.

Nephthys on Painted Linen - History

Wool is an animal fiber produced from spinning the hair of sheep. As a protein-based fiber, wool that is burned exudes the smell of burning hair. Wool flags generally feel coarse and the weave of wool fabric is generally looser than cotton or linen, and certainly looser than silk. Wool is chosen for flags because of its excellent ability to withstand water. Since it is a product of natural animal hair, it doesn't rot as readily as vegetable fibers like cotton or linen. Wool over 200 years old can still be vibrant and supple. Moths do tend to feed on wool, and many holes in wool flags are due to mothing, especially with flags that are stored for years in attics, barns, garages and basements.

When examined very closely, the earliest wool flags, which date to the 18th and early 19th century, were made of wool bunting that is very loosely and irregularly woven. This pre-industrial era wool is distinct and a good indicator of whether or not a flag with a low star count is in fact a possible authentic period example rather than a later-period flag. Shown here are close up images of wool bunting from flags of various eras, from the early 19th century through the 20th century. Note how in the earliest flag, the weave is very irregular, whereas in the wool bunting produced by machine in the mid- to late 19th century, and into the 20th century, the weave becomes very consistent and regular. (For more information see Wool, Wikipedia)

Cotton is a vegetable fiber produced from the boll that grows around the seeds within the seed pod of cotton plants. The fiber is spun into cotton yarn or cotton thread, and woven to produce cotton cloth. There are very early examples of cotton American flags, including those that predate the Civil War. Cotton was widely available as a household fabric, and was especially more prevalent for home use than animal materials such as wool bunting or silk. For many homemade American flags, cotton was the fabric of choice. When wet, cotton is heavier than wool and tends to become brittle and deteriorate. Cotton stored in hot or moist climates can also experience dry rotting. On most wool flags, cotton is typically the fabric of choice for sewn stars, owing to cotton's brighter coloration and tighter weave. (For more information, see Cotton, Wikipedia)

Linen is a vegetable fiber made from the fiber of the flax plant. Linen textiles are some of the oldest in the world. Homespun linen is a staple fabric. Though much less common than cotton today, linen fabric produced in early America was valued for its durability (linen is 2 to 3 times stronger than cotton) and, as an excellent conductor of heat, its coolness in warm weather. (For more information see Linen, Wikipedia.)

One of the best case studies for the use of linen in an early American flag is the 19 Star flag in this collection, as described below. The original 19 stars of the flag are made of identical homespun linen as the stripes of the flag. The two sets of added stars, which brought the total number of stars to 25, are clearly sewn by a different hand, but more importantly, are of a less tight, lower quality linen weave. This is solid evidence that when originally produced, the flag consisted of 19 stars, which were later updated. Note also how the linen, unlike cotton, has an almost pearl-like appearance under magnification.

Close up of an original star and its adjacent white stripe. Note the identical weave of the linen fabric. Also note the loose, irregular wool bunting, consistent with early 19th century wool fabric.

Silk is a natural protein fiber obtained most commonly from the cocoon of the larvae of the mulberry silkworm. One of the most luxurious and expensive of all fabrics, the use of silk in American flags is typically reserved for the finest quality flags, most often for military or official use. Several qualities of silk make it an exceptionally good fabric for use in flags. The material is light-weight, exceptionally strong, tightly woven and weathers well. Its shimmering appearance is beautiful and impressive. For military standards, silk allows for large flags that are light and which dry quickly. The fineness of the material allows for the application of painted decorations, as is often seen in the painted stars and decorative cantons of flags produced for wartime use, especially those of the American Civil War.

One unfortunate problem with antique silk flags is that large numbers of them, including many Civil War era battle standards, were made of "weighted silk". Sold for centuries by length, merchants shifted from selling silk by length to selling it by weight, beginning in the early 19th century (circa 1820-1830). In order to earn more money for their silk, merchants frequently soaked the silk in water laden with mineral salts. Once dried, the mineral salts remained in the silk fibers and added weight to the silk, thus bringing the merchant more money. Unfortunately, these mineral salts proved to be caustic and caused severe breakdown in the silk fibers over time. Many flags made of weighted silk are very brittle, often deteriorating under their own weight. Yet flags made of unweighted silk, some of which are decades older than later weighted silk flags, remain in a remarkable state of preservation.

Beyond the basic fabrics of wool, cotton, silk and linen most commonly used on antique flags, flags exist that are sometimes made of blended fabric such as wool-silk blends. Although certain weaves, such as bunting weaves for wool, are most common, homemade flags that are made from materials at hand sometimes use fabric intended for other purposes such as blankets, clothing, drapery or upholstery. These variations add charm and uniqueness to the flags. Flags with fabrics in printed patterns such as calico or stripes are also unusual and rarely encountered, thus adding to their appeal with collectors.

Little Lamb: A babe in white linen on white stone

Editor's note: This article by Jenedy Paige originally appeared on her blog, It has been shared here with the author's permission.

Last year, I began to feel that I should attempt a Nativity painting. This of course was a very daunting idea, but I figured the best place to start was with research. I began with Luke 2:7,

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn.”

I also came upon an article of archeologist, Jeffrey R. Chadwick, and found it eye opening and inspiring. Jeffrey R. Chadwick has worked in Israel as a researcher and field archaeologist for over thirty years, specializing in the backgrounds of biblical narratives. He suggested that the manger would have most likely been carved out of white limestone, one of the most abundant natural resources in the Israelite region, and showed pictures of many similar mangers they have uncovered on archaeological digs. And while we like to think of the baby, “asleep on the hay”, he also states that this was also unlikely, as grass was available on the hills surrounding Judea year round. They really would have had no need to store hay, and the mangers were most likely used for water.

I also learned that while we often think of “swaddling bands” as scraps of fabric, showing the poverty of Mary and Joseph, they were actually a big part of Israelite culture. When a young woman was betrothed she immediately began embroidering swaddling bands, which were 5- to 6-inch-wide strips of linen that would be embroidered with symbols of the ancestry of the bride and groom. Thus the bands symbolized the coming together of the two families as one. They also symbolized the integrity of the woman, as she strove to make both sides of the embroidery match exactly, symbolizing to her soon to be husband that she was as good on the inside as she was on the outside. These bands were then wrapped around the hands of the couple at the wedding ceremony. So the bands the Savior was swaddled in may have included the lion of Judah and the stem of Jesse.

As I wrapped my head around these rather mind altering ideas, I realized that many of the concepts that we have of the Savior’s birth revolve around paintings of European artists from centuries ago. I’m sure they painted according to the best of their abilities and knowledge, but I also wondered why more modern painters had yet to illustrate these concepts. I felt up to the task and began sketching right away. I picked up limestone from a stone yard, I bought linen from the fabric store, and just in time one of my good friends had a baby boy, and oddly enough, his name was Luke. I put all these components together and created this painting.

As I’ve sketched and worked, my heart has been so full as I’ve uncovered this image. For when you take away the Hollywood drama, the traditions of centuries, and the wood and the hay, all you’re really left with is a babe in white linen on white stone. And my mind immediately went to the purpose of the Savior’s life: He was born to die. He came as the sacrificial lamb for all mankind so how fitting that He would begin his life on a stone altar of sorts, and be wrapped in white linen, like he would after His death. And of course He would be placed in a trough for water, for He would be Living Water, and would bring life to all. I also found myself weeping for the Father, and how it must have felt to see His Son begin life foreshadowing His death. My heart was so full of gratitude that He would send His Only Begotten to be the Savior for us all. That He would send His Son, the King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, to die so that we all might live. What good news, what comfort and joy, what a gift was given to us all. O come, let us adore Him.

Jenedy Paige decided to be an artist as a senior in High School, and learned to paint during her time at BYU-Idaho, where she graduated with a BFA in 2006. It was art's ability to communicate a message that persuaded her to pursue a career in it, and it's the thing that keeps driving her back to her easel. Her greatest masterpieces are her three sons and daughter.

Watch the video: NEPHTHYS GODDESS HEREZ UR PAIN TING (May 2022).


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