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There are now 4 comments on pg 97. Ex Pluribus Unum: Egypt Unites.
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  1. STM says

    Did women in ancient Egypt really wear see through dresses? I thought that was Hollywood.

    • Look up images of predynastic Egyptian clothing. Sheer dresses were as modest as they got (linen is naturally sheer, anyway). Topless was a normal look. “Dresses” could even be made of loose netting and nothing more.

      I mean, the climate was so nice it wasn’t as though you needed clothing, other than for decoration or symbolism. In this way, the Egyptians weren’t that much different from anyone else around the Mediterranean at this point in history, when people were just starting to transition from the stone age to the bronze age, statehood, and civilization.

      Fast-forward several hundred years, however, and you’ll see that civilization had changed Egyptian attitudes towards clothing. Sheer linen is still being worn by both men and women (like the kalasiris robes, which didn’t necessarily have anything underneath). You’ll still see lots of see-through clothing being worn. But nudity has now taken on some socially-significant meanings. Children are generally depicted as nude, and it goes with their status of being children. On reaching adolescence, the meaning of nudity bifurcates sharply for men and women. Men’s status comes from the administrative rank they hold, and their clothing represents that. The only time you’ll see a man depicted as naked is when he’s being humiliated—as after losing a battle or being punished for a crime. For men, nudity is shameful and implies loss of status. It’s completely different for women, for whom nudity carries no stigma whatsoever. Women’s status comes not from office, but from their role in the family. A woman is not considered fully adult until she marries. So even after puberty, you’ll see young unmarried women of all social classes depicted as going about their lives entirely nude, wearing nothing but a belly chain or other jewelry. Even as adolescents who were biologically mature, culturally they were still children, and so wouldn’t wear clothes. It wasn’t sexual or shameful for them, just normal and utterly unremarkable. But again, that’s all way off in the future.

      (Also, my wife teaches costume history and fashion design, and I unabashedly raid her books and resources whenever I’m drawing a page that takes place before the 1970s. John at Runnymede? 1950s dame saying “hoodoo”? Elizabeth I’s chain gun? Alexander Hamilton’s brocade? Stolen from the spousal unit.)

      • After having lived in Cairo, Egypt, for a year, I don’t agree with the “the climate was so nice it wasn’t as though you needed clothing” statement. Nine months during the year, sure. But December-January-February saw only highs in the 60s and lows in the 40s. Definitely not topless weather in my book.

        • First, I don’t want to diminish your personal experiences. I lived in Riyadh for a few years as a youngster, and have spent some time toddling around the Aegean and up and down the Nile, and believe me, I know how all those regions experience the fullest range of the thermometer.

          However.

          If you look at what people actually wore back then, it wasn’t much. Nobody around there was exactly bundling up. I think that if you look at the research that has been done, you’ll find that my description fits the available evidence.

          Was it cooler in the winter? Absolutely. Did it get frigid at night? Of course. But most days it was pleasantly warm, if not hot. And always dry. In the north, Egypt’s climate was Mediterranean, and south of the delta it was sub-tropical, and clothing in that part of the world frankly served purposes other than protection from the elements. In other words, clothing wasn’t a necessity for survival, and thus served primarily symbolic and cultural purposes rather than protective.

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