The importance of linen

The single most important fabric in Egypt was linen. Linen was made from the fibers of a plant called flax. Egypt had well-developed weaving techniques, and many Egyptian workers were involved in producing linen fabrics. It was a light fabric, which made it comfortable in hot weather. It was also easy to starch, or stiffen, into pleats and folds, which decorated the clothing of both men and women, especially beginning in the Middle Kingdom (c. 2000—c. 1500 B.C.E.).

Egyptians used a variety of colors in their clothing, and these colors had symbolic meanings. Blue, for example, stood for Amon,

The tomb of King Tutankhamen.

Drawings in tombs like these helped archeologists learn what type of clothing Egyptians wore and what their daily life was like. Reproduced by permission of Getty Images.

god of air; green represented life and youth; and yellow was the symbol of gold. Red, which symbolized violence, was seldom used, and black was reserved for the wigs worn by both men and women. By far the most revered color was white. White was a sacred color among the Egyptians, symbolizing purity. Luckily, white was the natural color of flax.

Another quality of linen that was particularly appealing was its thinness. Linen could be made so thin, or sheer, that it was transparent. Egyptians were not modest and enjoyed showing off their bodies. Women and men are frequently depicted in hieroglyphs, or picture stories, wearing see-through garments.

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