Fragment of a Band with Noble Equestrian and Soldier, Inscribed “Zacharaiou” in Greek
7th-9th century (?)
Made in Egypt or Syria (?)
Weft-faced compound twill ( samit ) in reddish purple and beige silk
14 9/16 x 11 7/16 in. (37 x 29 cm)
The British Museum, London (1904,0706.41)
Not on view
Nineteenth-century excavations at the cemetery at Panopolis (Akhmim), a city long associated with Dionysos, yielded silks elaborately woven with classical motifs. Recent radiocarbon dating of textiles associated with the site place them between the seventh and ninth centuries, providing a sense of the continuity of styles as the region transitioned from Byzantine to Islamic rule. The cut and shape of fragments like this example indicate that they decorated garments. Popular at Akhmim over several centuries, the riding figures, reminiscent of soldier saints, may have been thought to convey apotropaic qualities that protected the wearer.
Inscription: In Greek, left and right, reversed: Zachariah
New York. The Metropolitan Museum of Art. "Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition (7th–9th Century)," March 12, 2012–July 8, 2012.