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Work Sprang cap
Department of Egyptian Antiquities: Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)
© Musée du Louvre/C. Larrieu
Christian Egypt (fourth - twelfth centuries AD)
This red wool sprang cap was used to hold the hair of a woman of Antinoe after death. Discovered during excavations in 1897 led by Albert Gayet, tomb C 350 in the Byzantine necropolis of Antinoe contained the body of a woman dubbed the Amazon or the Horsewoman, because of the leather saddle found at her side. This "athletic" element aside, the tomb contained the components of a highly feminine wardrobe, including a headband, hair curlers, dresses and so on.
This type of headdress - a legacy of the Greek fashion that can be seen on certain female figures painted on various fourth-century BC vases - seems to have been very popular among Coptic women. Nearly five hundred sprang caps of this type have been discovered in tombs. A few were found in situ, on the heads of the deceased, so putting an end to the debate concerning the purpose of these nets, which until this point had been believed to be knitted reticules. Three sprang caps comparable with this example were unearthed in the tomb of Colluthus, situated in one of the necropolises of Antinoe. The furnishings in this tomb also included papyri dating from the mid-fifth century, so providing a date for this type of item.
This weaving technique is known to have been practised in Denmark from the Bronze Age, which explains the Scandinavian roots of the term "sprang." The technique consisted of intertwining the warp threads, which were stretched and attached at both ends to a loom or frame, to create a rectangular piece of fabric. The two long sides were then sewn together to form a tube, and one of the ends was knotted with a drawstring that formed a knot at the top. The piece of fabric might also be folded in half to form a bag, which explains the confusion concerning their use. Small lyre-shaped looms or rectangular frames were used for this type of weaving. Images of gynaeceum scenes on Greek vases depict women holding these looms, confirming that sprang weaving was women's work.
BibliographyCatalogue of the exhibition at the Musée Dobrée, Nantes ; "Au fil du Nil, couleurs de l'Egypte chrétienne", Paris, 2001, n 46, p.76
Fifth-seventh centuries AD
Egypt, Antinoe, tomb C 350
Dyed red wool sprang cap
H. 25 cm; Diam. 20 cm. (at the base)
Gift as part of the policy of dividing archeological finds, excavated by Albert Gayet, 1896-7
Lower ground floor
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