Sunday, October 30, 2011

An SCA Field Garb Interpretation of Leather Curled-Toe Ankle Shoes (part 1)

Hi Everybody,

This update is about shoes.  I've recently come across the work of Dr. Andre J. Veldmeijer for the Ancient Egyptian Footwear Project.  Dr. Veldmeijer is currently working on a second PhD.  This one is focused on ancient Egyptian footwear.  I'm quite impressed by that.  Here's why.  The study of a single type of clothing from a specific culture from antiquity is a very narrow field of study.  I'm not aware of anyone else who has attempted to master this specific discipline.  He and his colleagues have categorized the types of footwear used in ancient Egypt by materials, construction, and apparent use.  He has published peer reviewed journal articles on eighteen types of footwear so far.  I have not had the opportunity to read all to of these articles.  The articles I have read covered such things as materials used, construction methods, wear patterns, and analysis of possible use.  They appeared to address every extant example of the footwear type under consideration.  I consider them to be quite thorough analyses of physical evidence.

As I said, I haven't been able to read all of Dr. Veldmeijer's articles.  This is because of budget issues.  In fact budget issues played a major role in my entire decision making process.  The process went something like this:  Q. which articles can I access on my budget?  A. the ones I can find online for free.  Q. what materials do I have access to for this project?  A. mostly just scraps from old projects and stuff I can get in trade.  Q. do my available materials match any of the materials lists from the articles I've been able to access?  A. yes, three of them.  Q. are any of those three a closed shoe, and there fore appropriate for wear during January in the American Rocky Mountains?  A. only one of them.

So for the past two months I've been making the one type of shoe I had materials for; Curled-Toe Ankle Shoes.  I should probably clarify that I am not trying to make a museum worthy replica of an extant piece.  I am trying follow Dr. Veldmeijer's work onto a next step.  My method in this effort starts with crafting shoes based on the crafting methods described in the article.  Then after crafting I plan to analyze my experience wearing them to see if my experience correlates with the wear patterns and usage analysis from the article.  I'm hoping that this might give me some small insight into the minds of ancient Egyptian craftsmen and their customers.

Pictures of the project and notes on construction will follow once I've got them uploaded.  That will be part 2.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Wonderfull Things from the Valley of the Nobles

As I said in my recent physical progress post I've been looking more closely at Egyptian beards.  The iconic image is the pharaoh's beard.  Tutankhamen's beard looked like this:

The burial mask of King Tut (not Steve Martin)

Here's Kafre's:

Diorite statue of Kafre, builder of the middle pyramid at Giza

Beards like this were usually false and worn attached by hooks over the ears.  This is the type of beard I had been hoping to emulate with live whiskers: Fail!  Beards like that were braided, which radically narrows it from the root.  The follicular growth under my chin is quite respectable by the standards of my northern European ethnic background.  But such growth is far too sparse to produce a braid as thick and stiff as a pharaoh's false beard.  And lets be honest, what modern person wants to pack their beard with clay?  So that's where I was several months ago.

But I'm not emulating a pharaoh.  As per SCA corpora, I'm emulating a nobleman.  And there just so happens to be a large group of tombs of noblemen at Luxor/Thebes.  They're just north northwest of the Ramseseum at a place called Sheikh Abd el-Qurna.  It's also called the Valley of the Nobles.  There's a great set of pictures at  Here's a few of them:

Painting from the tomb of Nakht, Scribe of the Granaries under Thutmose IV
Carving from the tomb of Ramose, Vizier during the reigns of Amenhotep III and Akhenaten
Painting from the tomb of Sennedjem, artisan during the reigns of Seti I and Ramesses II, pictured seated with his wife.
These are beautiful examples of the nobleman's beard.  This form of the beard is something I can accomplish.  And I think I have.  See for yourself:

A mirror image of Nakht's beard, right?

But it's not just beards that I found in the Valley of the Nobles.  I found beautiful depictions of clothing.  I'm specifically looking for tunics and other items which an Egyptian could wear for warmth.  Here are a few examples:

Painting from the tomb of Sennefer, Mayor of the City of Thebes and Overseer of the Granaries, Fields, Gardens, and Cattle of Amun during the reign of Amenhotep II

Painting from the tomb of Rekhmire, Vizier under Thutmose III and Amenhotep II

Painting from the tomb of Menna, Scribe of the Fields under Thutmose IV
I plan on making my tunic based on this type of evidence, since I can't seem to find much actual cloth that has survived for three and a half millenia.  Also the tomb of Sennefer is an absolute jewel.  It's known as the Tomb of the Vines.  I am taking a lot of inspiration from his tomb. Perhaps I'll even use his style to decorate a trailer/pavilion if I ever get that motivated.  Here's a look at the tomb:

I wanna be like Sennefer

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Thoughts on the Concept as a Whole

In SCA we re-create basically everything we know about the cultures we study.  That's what's awesome about historical recreation: that we're testing out what the historians tell us happened.  It's one thing to sit in an armchair reading books on history.  It's another thing entirely to go to where the history happened and try to feel what the historical people might have felt.  But I think the biggest step is between thinking and doing.  To see an object in a museum and then to try to make a copy with your own bare hands.  Then to use that object.  Every day.  Until that object means more to you than your cel phone.  That, I think, is the biggest step in our evolving view of history.

And in view of that, I may have bit off more than I can chew (before January).  I've gotta take that biggest step with each and every piece of this outfit.  Which isn't a problem, outside the context of the costume challenge.  But doing all of this by the end of the year?  Thinking about that sorta melts my brain.  Because I don't know of anyone who has taken the biggest step regarding everyday Egyptian life.

Sure people have made plenty of costumes, and embalmed mummies, and tried to raise obelisks.  All of which is awesome.  But getting into the mindset, living the way they lived, is gonna take years of work.  Years I am quite looking forward to.  But I just ain't so sure I can get it together before January 1st.  I might just end up looking like a dumbshit.

Then again Sneferu probably looked kinda stupid when the pyramid at Meidum failed to work out.  And if I continue to look stupid for a while, I can just remember that in spite of how Sneferu's second attempt worked out, he is still the father of pyramid building.  He built el-haram el-watwat, the Red Pyramid, the first true pyramid ever constructed.  And his son, Khufu, built the Great Pyramid of Giza, the largest pyramid currently standing.  Though that title would possibly have been held by the pyramid of Djedefre, Sneferu's grandson, if Djedefre's pyramid hadn't been destroyed.  I blame the Romans.  They had to make their mark, even though they were late on the scene.

Anyway, if I look dumb I'll just try to keep pluggin on, like old man Sneferu.

Edit: So I just noticed I was wrong about the size of Djedefre's pyramid.  It was only a few feet taller than his nephew Menkaure's pyramid, the smallest of the big three at Giza.  But I'm still not happy with those interloping Romans.

Physical Progress made in August

Hi guys,

The amount of progress I've made in August is truly astounding.  This unless we've met.  In which case you won't be astounded at all regarding how small my progress has been.  Mostly my progress in August has been to continue my research.  I only have two excuses, 1) we just bought our first house so I can't find anything but books, and 2) world of warcraft.

Physically I have begun working on the pattern for the shoes.  Sevya and I took a class last year on how to make turn shoes.  Since then we've worked together on the two-man portions of the shoe making process.  Basically we tape each others feet.  When making the initial pattern it helps to have another person smooth the tape over your foot as you stand on it.  This helps you make a more accurate pattern.  We use duct tape over old socks. Then we draw the pattern on the tape and cut the sock off of the foot following the pattern lines.  Right now I'm on the step where I transfer the shape of the taped sock to card stock for a permanent pattern.  For card stock I use boxes from frozen pizza.  The pattern I am using is the one described on pages 315-316 of Ancient Egyptian Materials and Technology, based on finds BM EA4408/9 and Ashmolean E2430 described therein.  This shoe is not a turn shoe, but the skills should apply.  Also while shoes of this type are not known to have been worn by men, the costume I am making is not being made to reflect what an Egyptian male would have worn in Egypt.  I am making the costume a male Egyptian in far northern exile might have worn if he had to walk through snow.

Btw, to Egyptians in ancient times, Egypt was the Only place to live, since being buried in Egyptian soil was the only way to be resurrected.  Therefore to them, living outside of Egypt, for any reason, would feel like exile.

Also I've been looking more closely at the beards.  I've made some progress in shaping mine a bit closer to an authentic look.  I get back to you with pictures later.

That's it for physical progress made.


I created this blog as a way to track my progress with the Artemisian Costume Challenge.  If any of you are unfamiliar with historical recreation groups, please bear in mind that this challenge is done in the general context of the Society for Creatice Anachronism and the specific context of the Kingdom of Artemisia.  This is my first attempt at blogging.  Please be patient with me.

My entry to the competition is as follows:

Name (for now)

Einar the Christian


Cote du Ciel


I joined the SCA in 1991 and I was excited.  I wanted my persona to be something unique and challenging, something no one had ever done for a persona.  I wanted to blow peoples minds with my fresh new research into a culture that no one had ever re-created before.  So I became a viking.  Smart huh?  Well after twenty years I've wised up.  I've realized that re-creating the viking culture is far too popular to be the challenge I'd hoped for.  A thousand years in the past just wasn't enough.  Recently (June 11, 2009) the SCA board of directors clarified corpora to explicitly include history previous to 1600 CE.  So I went back about three and a half millennia.  For the past half year or so I've been studying Egypt.  This  costuming challenge seems like a great way to put what I've learned into practice.

Overall Garment

The costume I am constructing for the challenge is modeled after accounts of royal officials of the eighteenth dynasty of ancient Egypt.  The eighteenth dynasty was a time of rebuilding following the second great collapse of the Egyptian civilization.  They rebuilt the society to such an extent that this dynasty and the following nineteenth dynasty are considered by many scholars to be the height of the Egyptian civilization.  Much of the greatness of Egypt is believed to come from the unity between the pharaoh and his people.  They followed his orders as if he were a god.  This unity became quite visual starting in the eighteenth dynasty.  At that time, royal officials began to wear items which had previously been worn only by the pharaoh.  They looked like him, therefore they represented him.

Skin Layer

The skin layer of this costume will be the primary adornment of all Egyptians: cosmetics.  I plan to make kohl (eyeliner) by hand in as close to the traditional method as I can.  I do plan to leave out all toxic ingredients, replacing them with some equivalent.  This will take some trial and error since I have never worn eye makeup, let alone made it.

Accessory to the Skin Layer

One of the items newly available to royal officials, during this dynasty, was the false beard worn by the pharaoh.  I have patterned my actual living beard after the style of those false beards.  It's been quite interesting.  Since their beards were false, they weren't constrained by the limits of living hair.  And those few among them who actually grew hair were of early north African ethnicity.  Since I am of modern north European ethnicity, this is quite a difference.  My current efforts are only approximately what I'm hoping to accomplish, but it does contribute to the overall look.  I have to train it to the right shape.  When it does lay right, it is very satisfying to see it on me.

Main Garment

The main garment for this costume will be a shenti.   A shenti is a skirt/kilt tied above the hips, which was worn by virtually all Egyptian males who did not go naked.  For many Egyptians this is all they wore.  Shentis varied in length from mid-thigh to ankle length.  Generally they were longer in later dynasties and on wealthier people.  They were almost always made of linen.

Accessory to the Main Garment

Shentis were sometimes worn secured by a belt.  This belt had a trapezoidal tab hanging down in the front.  This tab was quite stiff and often highly decorated.  It was a status symbol since it was so large it would interfere with the ability to do any work, similar to the long sleeves, long pant legs, or long trains seen throughout the world.

“Outer” Garment

In the eighteenth dynasty a short tunic was sometimes added to the ensemble of a wealthy Egyptian.  Such a tunic would usually be close fitting and have short sleeves to mid bicep.  They are often portrayed as light colored with a gold band around the bicep.

Additional Outer Garment

A robe of thin cloth was sometimes worn for warmth or ceremonial occasions.  Such a robe was generally a large rectangle with a hole in the middle for the head.  The sides could be either open like a poncho or sewn shut.  The robe could be worn alone or belted with a wide sash.

Other Accessories

One of the items allowed to royal officials at the time was the nemes head scarf.  This is part of the royal headdress seen on numerous images of pharaohs.  Such images include the Sphinx, the burial mask of Tutankhamen, and the giant statues of Ramses at his temple at Abu Simbel.  The royal headdress included the nemes, a gold band across the brow from ear to ear, and the heads of a cobra (uraeus) and vulture.  While the cobra and vulture remained exclusive to the pharaoh, the nemes and gold band were worn by many royal officials.

Collars were another accessory Egyptians often wore.  They could be made of metal, stone, faience (a non-clay self glazing ceramic), glass or other materials.  I have some red coral tube beads which I may use for the collar.  Though faience production sounds fascinating, so I may learn to make that for this project.

Egyptian footwear, when they did wear it, generally included sandals or slippers.  They could be made of woven reeds, cloth, or leather.  I haven’t decided yet what I will make for footwear, but since this costume will be worn in January in northern Utah, there will be footwear.

Note on Materials

Linen was the fabric most commonly used by the Egyptians.  Wool was used, as was leather.  But since they were animal products they were culturally viewed as unclean and were never worn in temples.  The taboo on animal products seems to have been relaxed for the wealthy.  Since the SCA follows the assumption that everyone is from the noble class, I might use animal products where I feel the need.

Novice Statement

I have made many leather items.  So I'm not a novice there.  I've also done metal shaping and made glass beads.  I'm not a novice with those.  But I've never made cloth clothing, cosmetics, faience, or shaped stone.  So for those items I am definitely a novice.  While I have woven baskets, I've never woven reed sandals.  I'd say I'm a novice at that.