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Revealing the Israeli Silk Road

Let us take you with us to our excavation site and into our laboratories and archives! 


Beautiful Nahal Omer. We will soon be back for our first excavation (Photo: Berit Hildebrandt).

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Deciding on where to work when we come back.

Left to right: Guy Bar Oz and Roy Galili (Photo: Berit Hildebrandt)


Looking at ancient textiles makes happy:). Orit Shamir at the storage room for organic finds at the Israel Antiquities Authority, Jerusalem (Photo: Berit Hildebrandt).

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The textile finds from Nahal Omer

(Clockwise): Textiles in situ at the excavation site; textile finds prepared for analysis in the laboratory (photo: Nofar Shamir); cotton textile (no. 2020-9303) after cleaning and conservation (photo: Dafna Gazit; conservation: Ilan Naor).

Textiles before and after cleaning
Fashion from afar: Ikat textiles
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These textiles from Nahal Omer are made in the so-called warp-ikat technique.

In the ikat technique, the pattern is created by tying the yarns before dyeing (either the warp, the weft, or both), and thus reserving portions of them. In warp ikats, only the warp threads are reserved in this way.

The examples from Nahal Omer are warp-faced, with the weft barely visible. As can be seen in the pictures, the warp ikat threads are colored in blue, brown, cream, reddish-brown, red, cream and tan or a combination of these colors. The yarns are dyed with madder (reddish brown and brown) and indigo (blue). The resulting patterns resemble feathers and/or lozenges. The threads of the Nahal Omer fabrics are Z-spun, with 18-28 threads per cm. 9 cotton fragments with the pattern have been found so far (out of ca. 350 textiles). 

This intricate dyeing technique required particular expertise in preparing the warp. The weave, however, was simple and could also be performed by less skilled craftspeople. 

Similar fabrics are depicted in cave paintings in Ajanta, India (Caves 1 and 17) that can be dated to the Vakataka Period (late 5th to 6th cent. CE). Also the Nahal Omer ikats were probably made in Yemen or India.

They are rare for this period and, more than that, represent the earliest archaeologically documented ocurrences of this type of textile, together with the ikat textile finds from the sanctuary of Lot in Jordan. 

More fashion from afar: silks
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These silk fragments are two out of four that were discovered at Nahal Omer. Their origin is not yet clear (we will investigate it), but at least their raw material could have been imported from Asia.

They are very fine fabrics. The first picture shows an example with 36 Z-spun warp threads and 24 Z-spun weft threads per cm, a coral-red main weft and a yellow brocading weft that create a diagonal pattern. 

The new excavations yielded a green tabby silk fragment with 35 I-spun (which means no spinning) warp threads and 30 I-spun weft threads per cm. 

Of the two other silk fragments (not pictured), one is blue and one is red, Z-spun, with 33 warp threads and 38 weft threads per cm. 

Fashion from the Mediterranean: linen
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However, the colorful fabrics are among the rarer finds. Also the people at Nahal Omer used a lot of monochrome fabrics. To the left, an example of bleached linen under the dino-lite microscope.

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