In 1978 Donald Whitcomb and Janet Johnson from the Oriental Institute in Chicago started an archaeological exploration at the Egyptian Red Sea port of Quseir al-Qadim. Excavations continued until 1982, and the preliminary reports have appeared in recent years. The site had been in use as a trading port in Roman times and again in the thirteenth and early fourteenth century, at the time of the Mamluk reign in Egypt. It is uncertain why the harbour lost its importance after that period, as the early fourteenth century was a prosperous one in Egypt, and there was an active Mamluk trade with Arabia and beyond.
Among the material found from the second period of habitation are sixty-eight cotton fragments that bear direct relation to the textiles so far referred to as 'Fustat', both in design and technical details. Their discovery at Quseir al-Qadim means that for the first time we now have evidence for the presence of textiles of this sort from a site that was excavated under datable conditions. It confirms that block-printed, resist-dyed textiles were traded from India to Egypt by the thirteenth century.
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