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Original Articles Home > Acta Via Serica > Archives > Original Articles
Title Silk Textiles from the Byzantine Period till the Medieval Period from Excavations in the Land of Israel (5th-13th Centuries CE): Origin, Transmission, and Exchange
Author Orit Shamir
Volume Vol. 7 No. 1
Pages pp. 53~82 (all 30 pages)
Publication Date June, 2022
Keyword Silk, Mulham, Coral Island, Cave 38, Israel.
Abstract The Hebrew word for silk, meshi, is mentioned in the Bible only once and there is a possibility that the item to which it referred was made of local wild silk. Although Jewish historical sources from the Roman and Byzantine periods mention silk many times, only a few silk textiles have been discovered at a sited dated to the Byzantine period (4th-7th centuries CE). The word "silk" occurs in the New Testament, although only once.2 A turning point in the history of the Negev (Southern Israel) occurred around 400 CE when it underwent a period of prosperity related to the advent of Christianity and pilgrimage, which enabled the purchase of imported silk textiles. The Early Islamic period (7-Sth centuries CE) yielded four (out of 310) silk textiles from Nahal 'Omer on the Spice Routes joining Petra, in the Edom Mountains of modern Jordan, and the mercantile outlets on the Mediterranean Sea, notably Gaza and El Arish. The most important silk textile assemblage in the Southern Levant was found near Jericho at Qarantal Cave 3S and dates to the medieval period (9th-13th centuries CE). Linen textiles decorated with silk tapestry originating in Egypt date back to the 10-11th centuries CE. Mulham textiles — silk warp with hidden cotton wefts - were discovered in the medieval fortress on Jazirat Fara'un (Coral Island) in the Red Sea, 14 kilometers south of Elat and today located in Egypt. Mulham is mentioned in literary sources of the ninth century in Iraq and Iran, whence it spread through the Islamic world. The article will present aspects of the origin, transmission, and exchange of these textiles.