Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Published in Sacred and Ceremonial Textiles: Proceedings of the Fifth Biennial Symposium of the Textile Society of America, Chicago, Illinois, 1996. (Minneapolis, 1997).


Copyright 1996 by the author.


Since so many of the temples of the Nile Valley were converted into churches after the coming of Christianity, most of the sacred objects of the temples were inevitably lost. The discovery of furnishings or ritual paraphernalia within the walls is extremely rare. As far as I know, our discovery of textile furnishings in the temple where they were once in use is quite simply unique.


The discovery of a previously unsuspected temple at the archaeological site of Qasr Ibrim,2 located in Egyptian Nubia, (Fig. 1) has provided us with a rich collection of sacred objects and temple furniture unknown from other early temples. It was built by the Kushites, an African people who, by 1500 BC, had developed a high civilization with its center at the city of Kerma, located on the middle Nile in what is now the Sudan. In 751 BC the Kushites were at the height of their power. They conquered Egypt, and remained there for over 100 years. Their dynasty was a period of extensive building, not only in Egypt, but even more in their homeland, known today as Nubia. Our temple was constructed during this period-around 750 BC.

Qasr Ibrim, for almost 3000 years, was the single most important settlement in Lower Nubia--that region immediately upriver from Egypt. During its long history Qasr Ibrim was a major religious center--the site of pagan temples and later of several Christian churches and a cathedral. Its dominating situation high on a bluff overlooking the Nile gave it a natural protection from enemies as well as protection from the flooding of the river. Because it has always remained completely dry, the temple and its contents were preserved.