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Preparing the flax, beating it, and making it into twine and cloth.
a, steps leading up to the top of the pits. bb, where the flax was steeped.
Fig. 1 brings water in earthen pots.
4 and 5 are engaged in beating it with mallets, e e.
7 and 8 striking it, after it is made into yarn, on a stone, g.
cc, the flax taken by fig. 3 to dry, previous to beating.
9 and 10 twisting the yarn into a rope.
11 and 12 show that a piece of cloth, i, has been made of the yarn 13, a superintendent.
water, according to the state in which they were required; and this is rendered more probable by the flight of steps, for ascending to the top of the raised sides of the pits; which would not have been introduced if the level ground were intended.
The steeping, and the subsequent process of beating the stalks with mallets, illustrate the following passage of Pliny upon the same subject: "The stalks themselves are immersed in water, warmed by the heat of the sun, and are kept down by weights placed upon them; for nothing is lighter than flax. The membrane, or rind, becoming loose is a sign of their being sufficiently macerated. They are then taken out, and repeatedly turned over in the sun, until perfectly dried; and afterwards beaten by mallets on stone slabs. That which is nearest the rind is called tow, inferior to the inner fibres, and fit only for the wicks of lamps. It is combed out with iron hooks, until all the rind is removed. The inner part is of a whiter and finer quality. Men are not ashamed to prepare it. . . . After it is made into yarn, it is polished by striking it frequently on a hard stone, moistened with water; and when woven into cloth it is again beaten with clubs, being always improved in proportion as it is beaten."
They also parted and cleansed the fibres of the flax with a sort of comb, probably answering to the iron hooks mentioned by Pliny; two of which, found with some tow at Thebes, are preserved in the Berlin Museum; one having twenty-nine, the other forty-six, teeth. (Woodcut 387.)
The border of some of their cloths consists of long fringes, formed by the projecting threads of the warp, twisted together, and tied at the end in one or more knots, to prevent their unravelling," precisely," as Mr. Thomson observes, "like the silk shawls of the present day;" and specimens of the same borders, in pieces of cloth found in the tombs, may be seen in the British Museum, and other collections.
The sculptures, as well as the cloths which have been discovered, perfectly bear out Herodotus in his statement that they had the custom of leaving a fringe to their pieces of linen, which, when the dresses were made up, formed a border round the legs; but they do not appear to have been universally worn.
Wooden comb found with some tow.
Fig. 1. Netting needle of wood.
2. Part of another of bronze, of later date, found by me at Berenice.
kind of dress he says was called calasiris. When the fringe was wanting, the border was hemmed, which had the same effect of preventing the unravelling of the cloth; and a fringe was sometimes sewed on, as in many of our imitation shawls. The Jews wore a similar kind of fringed dress, and Moses commanded the children of Israel to "make them fringes in the borders of their garments . . and . . . put upon the fringe of the borders a riband of blue." (Numbers xv. 38.)
Besides the process of making cloth, that of smoothing, or calendering, is represented in the paintings; which seems to have been done by means of wooden rods, passed to and fro over the surface; but from the appearance of some of the fine linen found in the tombs, we may conjecture that much greater pressure was sometimes used for this purpose, such as could only be applied by a press, or cylinders of metal.
For smoothing linen, a wooden substitute for what we call an iron was also used; some of which have been found at Thebes, six inches in length, made of tamarisk wood;* but this belonged chiefly to the washerwomen, who had also a wooden instrument for goeffreying fine linen; by which the waving lines were made, so commonly seen in the dresses of the kings and priests.
I have already stated that the Egyptians had carpets, which were a very early invention, being mentioned by Homer, who gives them the same name they are still known by, Tapeta, whence tapis and tapestry. They were used in houses, and were even spread for the sacred animals in Egypt. They were of wool, but of their quality we are unable to form any opinion, the fragments discovered in the tombs being very imperfectly preserved; though there is no doubt of their being portions of carpets. A small rug was also brought to England, and is now in the possession of Mr. Hay.
It is eleven inches long by nine broad; and is made like many carpets of the present day, with woollen threads on linen string. In the centre is the figure of a boy in white, with a goose above it, the hieroglyphic of "child," upon a green ground; around which is a border composed of red and blue lines; the remainder is a ground of yellow, with four white figures above and below, and one at each side, with blue outlines and red ornaments; and the outer border is made up of red, white, and blue lines, with a fancy *Woodcut 388, fiy, 3.
device projecting from it, with a triangular summit, which extends entirely round the edge of the carpet. Its date is uncertain; but from the child, the combination of the colours, and the ornament of the border, I am inclined to think it really Egyptian.
I have noticed the use of flax for making ropes, string, and various kinds of twine; for large ropes, however, of ordinary quality, and for common purposes, the leef or fibres of the date tree, were employed, as at the present day; and many specimens of these durable materials have been found in the excavations of Upper and Lower Egypt.
In a tomb at Thebes, of the time of Thothmes III., is represented the process of twisting thongs of leather, which, as it is probably the same as that adopted in rope-making, may be properly introduced here.
The ends of four thongs were inserted and fastened into a hollow tube, from the side of which a bar projected, surmounted by a heavy metal ball; and the man, who twisted them, held the tube in his right hand, whirling it round, as he walked backwards, by means of the impetus given from the ball. A band, attached to a ring at the other end of the tube, went round his body, in order to support it and give it a free action, and the ring turned upon a nut, to prevent the band itself from twisting.
At the other extremity of the walk, his companion, seated on the ground, or on a low three-legged stool, let out the separate thongs, and kept them from becoming entangled. Behind him sat another, who, with the usual semicircular knife, cut the skin into strips, as he turned it round; showing that what we term "the circular cut" was known to the ancient Egyptians 3300 years ago, and that they had already adopted this mode of obtaining the longest thongs from a single piece of leather. Such, too, was Dido's method, when she persuaded the unsophisticated natives to give up a piece of land as large as she could cover with a bull's hide, upon which she built Byrsa, the citadel of Carthage.
But the name Byrsa, said to be derived from the " hide," seems rather to be related to the fortress itself; being found in the names of Birs-Nimroud, Borsippa, the mounds of Boursa, and other places in the East, where towers, or citadels, once stood.