Special Exhibition Last Garments. Grave Finds from the Assi el-Hadath Cave in Lebanon Exhibition Closed

The Abegg-Stiftung has been conserving textiles from the National Museum of Beirut for several years now. The textiles are shrouds and garments discovered in the Assi el-Hadath cave on Mount Lebanon between 1988 and 1993. There, in the thirteenth century, people sought shelter, lived and buried their dead. Thanks to the dry climate, the textiles have been preserved.
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Crusaders and Mamluks

Jerusalem was conquered by the Crusaders in 1099. The crusader state that they established also encompassed today’s Lebanon. The Maronite Christians who had long been living there placed themselves under the protection of the Western conquerors. When the Mamluks expelled the Crusaders in the thirteenth century, they also persecuted the Maronites. │ Embroidery with birds; Mount Lebanon, 13th century; silk embroidery on cotton fabric; Direction Générale des Antiquités du Liban, inv. no. 116425

The Assi el-Hadath Cave

The cave discovered in 1988 is located 1300 metres up a mountain and is very difficult to reach. Its interior had been adapted for prolonged use as a retreat with both a walled well and a trough for grinding corn. The dead were buried right at the back of the cave. Finds of prayer manuscripts identify them as Christians. │ Image from: Fadi Baroudy u.a., Asi-l-Hadath, Lebanon. History of a Grotto (Phoenix Center for Lebanese Studies, Research, 11), Kaslik 2011

Testaments to the Past

The grave finds are among the most important archaeological testimonies to the age of the Crusades to have survived in Lebanon. The garments were not made specially for burial, but served as everyday wear or feast-day attire during the wearers’ lifetime. They therefore paint a vivid picture of the sartorial culture during that period. │ Tunic made of cotton with silk embroidery, Mount Lebanon, 13th century, Direction Générale des Antiquités du Liban, inv. no. 116369

Long Use

The garments show multiple signs of wear. The numerous repairs show that they were worn over a long period and any holes repeatedly patched up. Unusable items of clothing were not thrown away but were reworked for new purposes. │ Child’s coat made of cotton and linen with silk embroidery; Mount Lebanon, 13th century; Direction Générale des Antiquités du Liban inv. no. 116360

Simple Materials

Most of the textiles are woven with undyed cotton. Even just the dyeing of cloth and yarn constituted a luxury for the people of that period. Embroidery was the principal means of adding a dash of colour. The use of wool and silk was confined to just a few special pieces. │ Silk embroidery on a child’s tunic made of cotton; Mount Lebanon, 13th century; Direction Générale des Antiquités du Liban, Inv. Nr. 116326