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The subsequent examination of a great variety of mummy cloths showed that the disparity between the warp and woof belonged to the system of manufacture, and that the warp generally had twice or thrice, and not seldom four times, the number of threads in an inch that the woof had : thus, a cloth containing 80 threads of warp in the inch, of a fineness about 24 hanks in the pound, had 40 threads in the woof; another with 120 threads of warp of 30 hanks, had 40; and a third specimen only 30 threads in the woof. These have each respectively, double, triple, and quadruple the number of threads in the warp that they have in the woof. This structure, so different from modern cloth, which has the proportions nearly equal, originated, probably, in the difficulty and tediousness of getting the woof in when the shuttle was thrown by hand, which is the practice in India at the present day, and which there are weavers still living, old enough to remember the universal practice in this country.
I have alluded to some specimens of mummy cloth sent to this country by the late Mr Salt. I am unacquainted with their history or origin, further than they were brought from Thebes, and were contained in the outer packing-case of a mummy now in the British Museum. They were evidently the spoils of some other mummy, but when and where opened I have in vain endeavoured to learn. There were various fragments of different degrees of fineness; some fringed at the ends, and some striped at the edges. They merit a more particular description.
My first impression on seeing these cloths was, that the finest kinds were muslin, and of Indian manufacture, since we learn from the Periplus of the Erythrean Sea, a work ascribed to Arrian, but more probably the production of some Greek merchant, himself engaged in the trade, that muslins from the Ganges were an article of export from India to the Arabian Gulf; but this suspicion of their being cotton was soon removed by the microscope, which shewed that they were all, without exception, linen. Some were thin and transparent, and of very delicate texture. The finest appeared to be made of yarns of near 100 hanks in the pound, with 140 threads in the inch in the warp, and about 64 in the woof. A specimen of Dacca muslin in the Museum of the East India House, the finest production of the Indian loom, has only 100 threads in an inch in the warp, and 84 in the woof, but the surprising fineness of the yarns, which, though spun by hand, is not less than 250 hanks in the pound, gives to this fabric its unrivalled tenuity and lightness. Some of the cloths were fringed at the ends, and one, a sort of scarf about four feet long and twenty inches wide, was fringed at both ends. Three or four threads twisted together with the fingers to form a strong one, and two of these again twisted together and knotted at the middle and at the end to prevent unravelling, formed the fringe, precisely like the silk shawls of the present day. The selvedges of the Egyptian cloths generally are formed with the greatest care, and are well calculated by their strength to protect the cloth from accident. Fillets of strong cloth or tape also secure the ends of the pieces from injury, shewing a knowledge of all the little resources of modern manufacture. Several of the specimens, both of fine and coarse cloths, were bordered with blue stripes of various patterns, and in some alternating with narrow lines of another colour. The width of the patterns varied from half an inch to an inch and a quarter. In the latter were seven blue stripes, the broadest about half an inch wide nearest the selvedge, followed by five very narrow ones, and terminated by one an eighth of an inch broad. Had this pattern, instead of being confined to the edge of the cloth, been repeated across its whole breadth, it would have formed a modern gingham, which we can scarcely doubt was one of the articles of Egyptian industry. A small pattern about half an inch broad formed the edging of one of the finest of these cloths, and was composed of a stripe of blue, followed by three narrow lines of the same colour, alternating with three lines of a fawn colour, forming a simple and elegant border. These stripes were produced in the loom by coloured threads previously dyed in the yarn. The nature of the fawn colour I was unable to determine. It was too much degraded by age, and the quantity too small, to enable me to arrive at any satisfactory conclusion. Though I had no doubt the colouring matter of the blue stripes was indigo, I subjected the cloth to the following examination: —Boiled in water for some time, the colour did not yield in the least; nor was it at all affected by soap, nor by strong alkalies. Sulphuric acid, diluted only so far as not to destroy the cloth, had no action on the colour. Chloride of lime gradually reduced, and at last destroyed it. Strong nitric acid dropped upon the blue turned it orange, and, in the same instant, destroyed it. These tests prove the colouring matter of these stripes to be indigo. This dye was unknown to Herodotus, for he makes no mention of it. It was known to Pliny, who, though ignorant of its true nature and the history of its production, has correctly described the most characteristic of its properties, the emission of a beautiful purple vapour when exposed to heat. Had his commentators been acquainted with the sublimation of indigo, it would have saved many learned doubts. We learn from the Periplus, that it was an article of export from Barbariké on the Indus to Egypt, where its employment by the manufacturers of that country, probably from a remote period, is clearly established by the specimens here described. Amongst the various cloths for which I am indebted to the curators of the Hunterian Museum at Glasgow, is one of a pale brick or red colour. My attention was lately recalled to this specimen by observing a similar colour in the outer coverings of two fine mummies presented to the University of London by Mr. Morrison, one of which has been recently unrolled. Having obtained specimens of both, I subjected them, with that from Glasgow, to the following experiments:—Treated with cold water, the colour was not affected. Boiling distilled water in a few minutes nearly removed the whole. Diluted sulphuric or muriatic acid had no action on it; but a feeble alkali, whether carbonated or caustic, destroyed the colour immediately. Examined with a lens, the specimens from Glasgow exhibited small distinct grains or concretions, of a red colour, disseminated through the fibres of the cloth. Notwithstanding the fugitive nature of the colouring matter of safflower, the carthamus tinctorius of botanists, I am strongly disposed to consider the three specimens here examined as having been dyed with that plant. The small granular particles of a red colour observed in the Glasgow specimen are sometimes found in cloth dyed with carthamus. There is also in the covering of the mummy of the London University which is unstripped, a rosy hue peculiar to this dye. The resistance of the colour to acids, and its instant yielding to the weakest alkalies, is characteristic of Safflower. Lastly, carthamus has long been an article of cultivation in Egypt, and the first processes employed by the European dyers were derived, with the dye itself, from that country, where in all probability it has been cultivated and used for ages, and is to this day an article of considerable export. In the Glasgow mummy there was, moreover, a narrow slip of cloth about four inches broad, extending from the crown of the head to the feet, of a yellowish colour, of which portions were still fresh. On examination, no mordant appeared to have been used to fix this dye, and washing in cold water greatly impaired it. Comparative experiments made on this colour, and on that afforded by carthamus to simple water before the pink dye is extracted, left little doubt of their being identical. They were slightly and similarly affected by solutions of alumina and of iron, and appeared to have very feeble affinities for either vegetable fibre or any of the earthy or metallic bases. Though the age of the mummies from which these specimens were derived has not been ascertained, yet we may fairly presume that it goes back to a period so far remote as to make the preservation so long of delicate and fugacious colouring matter like carthamus, or even the more permanent one of indigo, very surprising, and proves that substances which readily yield to the combined and destructive agency of heat or light and moisture, are almost unalterable when secured from the action of the latter. Portions of the blue cloth which had resisted in the dark and dry sepulchres of Thebes for ages, lost, by a few days’ exposure on the grass, nearly all their colour. Mummy cloth not stained or discoloured by resin or bitumen is generally of a pale-brown or fawn colour, which has been supposed to arise from some astringent preparation employed by the Egyptians for its preservation. All this cloth imparts to water a brown colour, in which I have sought in vain for any trace of tannin. In none of the specimens I have examined did either gelatine or albumen, or solutions of iron, afford any precipitate; but the sub-acetate of lead produced a cloud, indicating the presence of extractive matter. I am inclined to think that if astringent matter has been found, it is in those bandages which have received a preparation of gum or resin, and which are distinguished from the others by their stiffness. These I have not examined. All these cloths, whether fine or coarse, are more or less rotten. Of the numerous specimens which have fallen under my notice, the outer covering of the fine mummy in the London University has suffered least: it is comparatively sound. Whether this be an argument against its high antiquity I know not; but the cloth is evidently ancient Egyptian; nor is it, I believe, pretended that in those factitious mummies manufactured by the Arabs, of which several were found by Blumenbach in the British Museum, the bandages and envelopes are not genuine. Of the ancient cloth there is such an accumulation in the mummy-pits and sepulchres of Egypt, as to have become an object of speculation in Europe, for the purpose of making paper. The inquiries, therefore, which form the subject of this communication, are not affected by any question of the integrity of those mummies from whence the specimens were derived, of which, however, no doubt is entertained. The period during which the custom of embalming prevailed in Egypt, embraces a long succession of ages. From the first of the Pharaohs to the last of the Ptolemies, with whom this ancient rite is supposed to have become almost extinct, chronologists reckon more than twenty centuries during which the art was practised which has handed down to us these scanty remains of Egyptian industry, the only vestiges of the labours of the ancient loom now in existence. They prove the arts of spinning and weaving flax to have attained a high degree of perfection, many of the specimens of mummy cloth here described being of a quality to excite admiration even at the present day, and the finest of these fabrics approaching in excellence our delicate muslins. The coloured borders establish the fact of indigo having been known and used as a dye in Egypt, from a remote aera. During this long period, industry and the arts of life connected with civilization must have made considerable progress, which we shall, however, remain unable satisfactorily to trace, till more accurate knowledge of the ancient language and characters of the Egyptians shall have interpreted the dates, and fixed the chronology of their monuments and paintings. In the tomb of Beni Hassan is a representation of a loom (figured in Count Minutoli's Travels) of such primaeval simplicity as to resemble the first rude efforts of savage art to form a web, such as Don Ulloa in his voyages has described as used by the native Indians of South America. Between this loom, and that in which the corslet of Amasis was woven, mentioned by Herodotus, and more particularly described by Pliny as a wonderful specimen of manufacturing art the distance is immense. It is not improbable that future researches directed to this