For the last few decades Brigham Young University has been involved in the excavation and study of ancient ruins and tombs in the Fayum region of Egypt, particularly in the Fag El Gamous cemetery. Some of the remains there have been noted as early Christian. One of the reports of these findings was given in the 1993 issue of BYU Studies under the exhaustive title “Evidences of a Christian Population in the Egyptian Fayum and Genetic and Textile Studies of the Akhmim Noble Mummies.” The study was also written about in the 1991 January Ensign under the titles “More Valuable Than Gold” and “Secrets Woven in the Past.”
The BYU Studies report mentions the unusual construction of the textiles that some of these mummies were dressed with in their burial:
Ten of the robes on this burial are plain linen garments but the many strands of linen ribbon wrapped around the upper half of the body are gathered together into a complex knot. This knot is found on the left shoulder on two of the robes and on the right shoulder of the remaining eight robes. The symbol of the sacred knot or bow is common in Egypt and elsewhere and may indicate sacerdotal or priestly authority.
The piece of clothing closest to the body is not usually well preserved due to the destructive influence of fluids and chemicals remaining in the body. In this burial, as well as a few others, however, the woolen garment next to the skin is sufficiently well preserved for us to observe that small rosettes have been woven into the material in particular locations. There is one rosette over each breast and one on the right leg near the knee, but there is no corresponding rosette on the left leg. Across the lower abdomen, the material also has a hemmed slit about six inches long.
Considered all together, the various items of clothing all previously unused and many containing symbols and designs, argue strongly for belief not only in an afterlife, but also for appropriate attire, most likely accompanied by or representative of a multifaceted and complex ritual process which would assure safe and successful passage into the realm of the divine. ((Link to BYU Studies article))
I’ve heard elsewhere that there is an apocryphal story that Jacob knew that it was Joseph’s rent coat that his other sons brought to him b/c he could feel the markings that were sewn in it.
Thanks Justin for the reminder of that connection! I’ve just now posted on that subject.
The Seal of Melchizedek – Part 5 – Temple Study - LDS Temples, Mormon Temples, Study Blog
[…] Kendrick also connects the gammadia on the Ravenna mosaic altar cloths with the gammadia found on Egyptian Coptic garments (which Tim Barker also notes well): Early altar-coverings, as represented in mosaics and […]
D. Rolling Kearney
Thanks for posting this! Before I left for my mission in late 1993, I attended a “Know Your Religion” fireside where the speaker talked much about Egyptian archaeological digs where the corpses were found wearing clothing like temple robes, as well as being buried with small carved fishes, an obvious symbol of Christ. I have not heard anything else about this until this post! Thanks for helping me know I haven’t just been imagining some faith-promoting rumor 🙂