Visiting the ROM & Kelsey

The delay since my last post is due to the fact that I was preparing for, and sorting through the results of, my appointments the other week with the Royal Ontario Museum and the Kelsey Museum of Archeology to see the Egyptian nalbinding in their collections.

A bike rack outside the ROM. There were several different shapes of bike racks all relating to the collections in the ROM. The Museum subway station pillars were also decorated with various themes relating to the collections.

As I discussed in an earlier post, the Royal Ontario Museum (ROM) in Toronto, Ontario has eleven Coptic socks in its collection. Eight of the 11 socks are primarily whole. The remaining three are fragments, but of sufficient size and construction to indicate that they were actually socks. Five are ostensibly dated to 200-641 CE. The other six to the 4th-5th century CE. None of them have been carbon dated. Not much information was retained as to their find locations. Where noted, they appear to be from the Faiyum.

On Monday, July 8th, I was granted a study block in their workrooms to examine the socks. The number of patches was quite interesting. 910.108.137 tends to photograph as a muddy brown, but in person is a beautiful deep reddish purple.

The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology. This building is primarily administrative now with the exhibits in the new addition on the back. The gift shop is in this building.

The Kelsey Museum of Archaeology in Ann Arbor, Michigan also has six fragments their collection that I have not previously introduced you to on this blog. Click here to access their online collections. These fragments were all found in the excavations at Karanis, which is located at the Northern edge of the Faiyum basin. Five of the fragments (by inventory number) are the cross-knit variant of nalbinding. One is blanket stitch. On July 10th, I had the opportunity to study them.

Careful examination of fragments can at times be much more revealing than at first glance. Besides the increases on the toes combined with evidence of the heel flap telling you for which foot a sock was made, this collection also has evidence of a fringed sock and another one with stitch-patterning. I will be going into the details in my presentation currently scheduled for October: “Fringed and patterned: decorative elements in Romano-Coptic nalbound socks.”

Author: Anne Marie Decker

Nalbinding Researcher

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