For more than 1,000 years, this hat survived in a tomb preserved by the dry climate and sandy soil of Egypt. Textiles from Coptic tombs offer insight into the lives of the early Christians of Egypt, including what they wore, and how they wove and stitched together garments. Look for the small earflaps around the base.

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What was Coptic Egyptian culture like during the time when this hat was made?

responded: Jan 30, 2012

Posted by Emilia Dallman

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The oldest textile I own is an afghan made by my mother’s mother. I became quite attached to the throw at some point in my teens, and it now lives on the foot of my bed in my apartment in Toronto, in almost completely perfect condition. This is quite a journey from where it was originally constructed, in the small Ontario border town of Fort Frances. Originally, it was purposed for somewhat utilitarian needs, as a source of warmth in the frigid basement den where my grandfather’s tools and the orange velour couch were both exiled. This afghan, and a second similar one, were rescued from the Fort Frances house before selling, along with my grandfather’s favourite recliner. Upon further reflection, I was curious to know the origin of the blanket’s name: afghan. With some simple research I discovered that the noun "Afghan" first appeared in English in the late 1700s as a name for the Pashtuns of eastern and southern Afghanistan. (The name is not Pashtun in origin, however; "afghan" is the Persian name for these people.) Furthermore, Afghanistan is known the world over for its textiles - particularly its carpets and karakul wool - so it's no wonder that "afghan" was soon used in English to refer to knitted or crocheted wool shawls or blankets. This use of "afghan" (always lower-case) arose in the early 1800s. It will never cease to amaze me the way in which cultures seem to simultaneously clash and grind with one another, and be discretely and subtlety inter-weaved together. In this one seemingly ordinary blanket, I am able to find both a connection to a grandmother I did not get a chance to know, and a culture we in North America struggle to understand fully.

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