14th December 2020
Dr Ashley Cooke
The Girdle of Ramses III at Liverpool’s World Museum
Dr Cooke gave the Society a highly detailed description of one of the prize exhibits in the Ancient Egypt Gallery at the World Museum in Liverpool, where he is the Curator.
This incredible object was bought and brought to the UK by Reverend Henry Stobart, who then sold it to Joseph Meyer and it was donated to the museum in 1867.
It has variously been described as mummy wrappings, a scarf, a belt and a girdle, but agreement is unanimous in that it is an internationally important work of art and an archaeological masterpiece.
The girdle is a woven strip of fabric 17 feet long and tapering from a width of five inches to just two inches at its narrow end. Despite being 3000 years old the colours on this textile, made of flax, are still vibrant due to the use of natural dyes, and the exquisite design is woven into both sides. It is thought that it was the work of foreign weavers, descended from those brought to Egypt from campaigns during the 18th Dynasty.
The cartouche of Ramses III is inscribed along the central portion of the fabric and images, which still exist today, indicate how the girdle was worn wrapped around the chest.
Since the girdle was put on display at the museum many modern weavers have tried, but failed, to reproduce the exceptionally fine quality of the weaving using looms similar to those available at the time when it was created. The object was exhibited in Leiden whilst the Gallery was being refurbished and since the reopening in 2008 it has been placed in a darkened display case lit by an internal visitor-operated light, to prevent light damage.
Many textile and weaving enthusiasts visit the exhibition each year to marvel at the complexity of the structure and design of this extraordinary and beautiful artefact