Arlecchino Malbenvolio / Reference

The Ancient Egyptian Kilt

I understood from a show on the origin of underwear that the ancient egyptian kilt, or loincloth, was a single cloth wrapped in an interesting way. Specifically, that it was wrapped in an "ingenious" way which eliminated chaffing in the hot and humid climate. Well, the show asserted that the garment is "ingenious" but they provided no supporting information.

So, this page is an example of what an off-hand comment in a one hour-long program will drive me to do. Sad isn't it?

I've managed to find several leads by looking in various search engines. One lead I found was in looking for ancient egyptian period costume links. I found several references to a book, or a section from a larger work, by Mary G. Houston and Florence S Hornblower. This book appears to be OOP in the US but I was able to order from amazon UK.

Amazon US
Amazon UK

Unfortunately, I can't recommend the book. I did get it, but it ended up being a very small book, of around 41 pages. Especially after shipping from the UK, but even without that cost, it was far too expensive for what it is. Further, it did not provide very much in the way of useful informaion anyway.

I also found several costuming links. While not specifically useful, these are at least interesting.

Egyptian Costume
Ancient Egyptian Costume Links

There is one reference to the egyptian word "snto.t n|yw" on a page at the Oriental Institute of Chicago which appears to be the egyptian word for their kilt.

The Demotic Dictionary Project

The word which I think is the right one for the article of clothing that I'm curious about is "shendjyt" and it appears in Altavista only twice. I've included these two links, for reference below, tho they are not more than simple mentions of the word.

From Tuthmosis III

"The statue represents Tuthmosis III kneeling on a base, wearing a shendjyt kilt ..."

From Women in Egypt: Menkaure and his Queen 2. Description

"Besides the headdress, the only other article of clothing he wears is a shendjyt kilt which is folded across the front, with one end falling down beneath, and held in place with a belt round his waist."

Searching on Excite, returns one addtitional reference, from a posting to AEgyptian-L. It's about half way down the page.

"...the belt of the Shendjyt kilt which the figure wears ..."

I have also found a site about an exhibit based on information from Tutankhamun's funerary items, specifically the clothing. This actually provides what so far is the only reference to the structure of this article of clothing which I've found so far.

This is the "Tutankamun's Wardrobe" Exhibit. The schedule shows there will be an appearance in January 2001-March 2002 at the Oriental Institute, Chicago.

From Tutankhamun's Wardrobe
(note: this web page is now gone. there is another mention of the exhibit here: Fit for a Pharaoh, however the ISBN for the book doesn't exist, according to Amazon.)

"The loincloth is a simple garment, part of which is wrapped around the waist while the rest is drawn between the legs. Loincloths were used by most of the population of Egypt for virtually all of the Pharaonic period. It is a versatile garment which could be worn by itself, either open or closed at the front; tied at the top with a sash or worn under other garments. Two types of loincloths were used in ancient Egypt, namely, the cloth and leather forms."

"A typical cloth loincloth is made out of two triangular shaped pieces of cloth sewn together down the centre of the garment. The central seam is made from the two long, straight edges (using selvedges of the cloth) of about 100 cm each, which are overlapped and then overcast (overlap seam). The top of the cloth is neatened with a simple hem, while the diagonal sides are finished with a rolled and whipped hem."

"Loincloths normally have two strings at the junction between the simple hem and the rolled and whipped hem. These are used to fasten the garment around the waist at the front. The strings can either be knotted onto the loincloth, or made by an extension of the simple hem on top, which is wrapped around with a piece of string."

I have found two other words which may mean the egyptian kilt. From "The Historical Encyclopedia of Costumes" by Albert Racinet (facts on file, 1988 New York, NY)

pg10-11 "Pharoah Ptolemy Philadelphus, wearing a tall mitre bearing the royal cobra and a loincloth, called a schenti"

There is corroboration for this meaning from Compton's Encyclopedia Online

"The men's sole garment, the schenti, or loincloth, was wrapped about the hips and held in place by a belt." Compton's Encyclopedia Online

Additionally there is another term in the Racinet book on pg14-15.

"3.20 Here he is wearing a klaft and the striped calasiris that was the national military costume."

Previously in this book it is made clear that the klaft is worn on the head, so the kilt item here is the calasiris. Unfortunately, the word "calasiris" appears to misused in this sense. Other references for this word indicate, not a loincloth or kilt, but rather a body length tunic.

Herodotus Book 2
Theosophy article "Roots of Ritualism in Church and Masonry" by Blavatsky

Additionally, although not really relevant, this appears to have been the given name of a priest in the manuscript "Heliodorus of Emesa"

Philadelphia Rare Books and Manuscripts: General Miscellany: Authors F-M

Neither of these two words, then, provide much by way of new information.

The search continues ...

I managed to find a book that had a picture of the triangular cloth, with strings at each of two corners, with some description of the article. I will scan the picture and put that up when I get a chance.




John Griogair Bell - Arlecchino Malbenvolio

“Clown with a Bad Attitude”

Original material is Copyright © 1995 – 2019 J G Bell
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