The Site of Fustat

Cloth fragments of the type displayed here are usually refered to as 'Fustat textiles', after the site of Fustat, the medieval urban center to the south of Cairo. The textiles were supposedly first found there during archaeological excavations, but no actual site report or identification exists to confirm the allocation. The reasons for this lack are three fold.

Fustat is a difficult archaeological site, as it has been a refuse disposal area for some time. Consequently, the first excavation carried out there in the early years of this century left many questions open. Subsequent work on the site, carried out under the direction of George Scanlon between 1964 and 1980, confirmed the problems of the early excavation, as the disturbed contexts of the site made dating extremely difficult. And finally, a general interest in textiles is a relatively recent development. Up to this decade it has often been common practice to discard cloth finds as insignificant.

Furthermore, much of the textile material associated with Fustat is not Indian, but Christian or Islamic Egyptian, or from elsewhere in the Mediterranean and the Near Eastern realm. The known collections of printed fragments all include some textiles that were not made in India, but had a different origin. This diversity has been confirmed by a report on textiles found as Fustat during George Scanlon's last excavation season in 1980. Approximately 3000 fragments found, of which only one can be compared to the Indian material. In addition to the problems inherent in the site itself, it is now certain that identical textiles were traded widely throughout Egypt. Most prominately reported are the finds from the Red Sea port of Quseir al-Qadim.



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