I have always loved imagining what life was like in different times and places. What would it be like, for example, to time travel and visit ancient Egypt and be able to see the architecture and art that I've only experienced as photographs in books? Many years ago, I had the privilege of taking a course on ancient Egypt taught by Bob Brier
, a well-known Egyptologist. It was a little bit like time travel as he shared his knowledge and passion for a culture that existed so long ago. These drawings are from a paper I wrote and illustrated on ancient Egyptian costume.
The ancient Egyptians were very concerned with aesthetics, and it is natural that this concern pervaded their costume. Their garments were of usually made of woven linen that varied in texture from very thick to almost transparent. When ornamented, garments were either dyed or painted in colors such as deep warm purple, indigo blue, dull madder red, dull apple green, and dull yellow-orange. In ornamentation, the Egyptians used their favorite decorative motifs on everything: temple walls and ceilings, tombs, furniture, jewelry, and clothing. The two most frequently used details were the lotus and papyrus put into varied geometric patterns and colored rhythmically. The drawing above shows the goddess Isis wearing an elaborate hawk headdress.
The most characteristic piece of ancient Egyptian jewelry was the pectoral. This drawing depicts a pectoral from the 12th dynasty (1991 - 1783 B.C.). It was made of gold inlaid with carnelien and lapis lazuli.
Lady and gentleman in festal costume of the New Kingdom (1570 - 1070 B.C.)
left to right: figure with the hawk-feather headdress of Isis, princess, prince
Music was an integral part of the ancient Egyptian lifestyle, whether played in temples, at the banquets of the rich, or in the ranks of a marching army. The musicians themselves had little if anything distinctive about their dress, with the exception of the royal harpists from the tomb of Ramses III (1194 - 1156 B.C.). Here the harpist wore a voluminous New Kingdom robe that fell loose but was rounded off at the bottom to prevent its trailing on the ground.