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What are some possible reasons for the lack of color in Egyptian fabrics? 

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yacel0762 | Valedictorian

Posted June 24, 2013 at 4:44 PM via web

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What are some possible reasons for the lack of color in Egyptian fabrics? 

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Michelle Ossa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

Posted June 24, 2013 at 5:47 PM (Answer #1)

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According to archaeologists, the clothing in Egypt was complex to produce due to the material being linen. Linen is basically a material made from plant fiber. This fiber is part of the plant strands of flax. This being said, the process of separating the fiber out of the flax to be turned into linen is a process that, while difficult as requiring repeated soaking and beatings, was well-manipulated by the Egyptians. 

Since females were the main loomers when making clothes, it was the men who took the task of separating the fibers. As far as color goes, one of the possibilities that has almost become a fact is that a specific symbolism is awarded to colors. White happens to be the one that permeates ancient Egypt not only because it is expensive to dye clothing (the red color alone was obtained by crushing cochineal insects because of their red bodies), but because white had a positive and cleansing meaning. Egyptologist Anita Stratoss offers that

'Memphis,' a holy city, meant 'White Walls,' and white sandals were worn to holy ceremonies. White was also the color used to portray most Egyptian clothinHowever, those who could afford the extra work would use specific jewelry and colorful designs to distinguish themselves from the rest of the populi.

Keep in mind that Egyptians only had six colors as it is evidenced in paintings: black/white; red/blue, yellow/green. 

Yet, in the words of Anita Stratoss, 

White denoted purity and omnipotence, and because it had no real color, it represented things sacred and simple. White was especially symbolic in the religious objects and ritual tools used by priests. Many of these were made of white alabaster...

Hence, the combination of complexity, symbolism and expense contribute greatly to the choice of color in everyday Egyptian society. 

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