Qumran Cave 1Q Textiles in the Palestine Exploration Fund

PEF textiles

While examining  the textiles from Qumran Cave 1Q in the Palestine Exploration Fund the DQCAAS Network has been much helped by curator Felicity Cobbing, who scanned these textiles using their sophisticated equipment. The results of the scanning demonstrates how useful high-quality images of textiles are for showing the details of the material not easily visible to the naked eye.  By permission of Felicity Cobbing we make these scans available here. All these images are copyright (all rights reserved). For those who wish to use these in any way, please ask permission by emailing the Palestine Exploration Fund directly at execsec@pef.org.uk

These textiles were initially studied by Grace Crowfoot, in two publications:

Crowfoot, Grace (1951). ‘Linen textiles from the cave of Ain Feshkha in the Jordan valley’, Palestine Exploration Quarterly 83 (1951), January-April, 5–31.

Crowfoot, Grace (1955). ‘The linen textiles’, in D. Barthélemy and J. T. Milik (eds.), Qumran Cave 1, Studies in the Judaean Desert 1 (Oxford: Clarendon, 1955), 18–38, Pl. IV–VII.

Crowfoot numbered these and, accordingly, the PEF fragments can be found in her list, as 20, 23 and 25.

The PEF textile pieces were subsequently re-published when identified in 2002, in an article by Joan E. Taylor, Kaare L. Rasmussen, Gregory Doudna, Johannes van der Plicht and Helge Egsgaard (2005), ‘Qumran Textiles in the Palestine Exploration Fund, London: Radiocarbon Dating Results,’ Palestine Exploration Quarterly, 137/2, 159–167, which included radiocarbon results.

Crowfoot catalogued 77 pieces from Cave 1Q, though two of these (nos. 11 and 12) turned out to be cotton, and were classified as ‘modern’ (Crowfoot 1955: 31). Unfortunately, these were then thrown away. Of the remaining 75 pieces of textile, some are from the same cloth (e.g. no. 18 belongs with no. 28, and no. 6 with 19). None of the linen is very fine but it is of moderate quality.

The textiles in the PEF are mounted in perspex and were identified by the letters ‘A.F.’, which can be misleading to curators not familiar with Qumran archaeology. A.F. stands for Ain Feshkha, because initially the cave was associated with the spring and ruin at Ain Feshkha rather than with Khirbet Qumran and thus called the ‘Ain Feshkha Cave’. It may be that there are textiles in museums and collections with this ‘A.F.’ labelling that people do not realise are from Qumran Cave 1Q.  However, at the moment most of these precious textiles cannot be located, which makes the three PEF textiles particularly valuable. To date our research has been able to identify only a few fragments in any collections. The identifiable fragments are listed below, with available links online, with the PEF material inserted in sequence. Captions provided for the PEF photographs for the Network by Joan Taylor.

15: Israel Antiquities Authority, labelled IAA 351288

20: Palestine Exploration Fund, London PEF/A0/6000

AF 20 PEF-AO-6000 600dpi
A. F. 20 = PEF/A0/6000 (Crowfoot 1955, 32, Pl. VI: 16). This linen fragment is mounted with an illustration of a corded border consisting of warp loops. There are 11 weft threads that survive beyond the cord, woven into it. It is 9 cm in width and 1.5 cm high at its maximum not including trailing loose warp threads. It has an open tabby weave that is quite even, with a count of 12 x 12 threads per cm and the thread is S-spun, moderately even but with some thickening. There is no indication of how wide this cloth was but the loose weave would not make it very suitable for clothing. There is an area of encrusted dark matter adhering to the threads in the central part of the tear and indication of reddish-brown tinges or stains in some of the fibres.

22: Israel Antiquities Authority, labelled IAA 578620

23: Palestine Exploration Fund, London PEF/AO/6001

AF 23 PEF-AO-6001 600dpi
A. F. 23 = PEF/AO/6001 (Crowfoot 1951: 23, Pl. VIII: 1 and 1955: 33, VI:17). This substantial piece of linen survives to the dimensions of 24 x 12 cm though it is damaged (with holes). It is cut from a larger piece since we can see two hemmed edges that have been rolled and oversewn with two threads very carefully and the surviving corner is well-turned, without any signs of being pulled or twisted. The thread count is 13 x 11 per cm, with a slightly open tabby weave, but less open than in the case of no.20. It is S-spun thread that is generally even. There is a minute dark encrustation on the left side, and areas of reddish tinges (stains) in the upper part. A fragment was radiocarbon dated in 2002 to a yield a date range of 1984 ± 28 BP at ± 1 standard deviation (sigma, 68% probability), with a calibrated result of 50calBC – 80calAD (2 standard deviations, 95.4 % probability). In running this calibration again (11/5/18) using the OxCal v4.3.2 online version of the IntCal13 atmospheric curve the result was a dating range of 44calBC to 71calAD (2 standard deviations, 95.4% probability). [For IntCal13 see Reimer, P. J., Bard, E., Bayliss, A. (2013), ‘IntCal13 and Marine13 radiocarbon age calibration curves 0-50,000 years cal BP,’ Radiocarbon 55(4): 1869–1887].

25: Palestine Exploration Fund, London PEF/AO/5999

AF 25 PEF-AO-5999 600dpi
A. F. 25 = PEF/AO/5999 (Crowfoot 1951: 25; Pl. III: 3 and 1955: 33, Pl. VI:18). This is a small fragment of blue-decorated linen cloth showing a selvedge on the left side of the picture, though it is not very straight. The total surviving piece measures about 6 x 3 cm and has a small hole and some discoloration at the top. It is tabby weave, S-spun, and fairly thick and dense, suitable for original use as a mantle or large cloth. The threads are not entirely even and the thread count is about 16 x 12 per cm. The blue weft thread is probably dyed with indigo. There is a small fleck of remaining blue weft thread at the top, and about 1.5 cm down (17 undyed warp threads) there are two further blue weft threads that run in parallel with a further stripe of two weft threads after three undyed weft threads. These are followed by seventeen undyed wefts for another 1.5 cm and then there is a further two blue that make a single stripe. There is a small extraneous thread on one of the stripes. There is no indication of how big the piece was originally.


30: Israel Antiquities Authority, IAA531297

55: Ashmolean Museum, but the current whereabouts are unknown, and this cannot be verified.

59: Cambridge Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, Accession no. 1952.21

60. British Museum, Accession no. 131444a

61? part? Musée de Louvre 16-564586

See also a 2004 ESRF Project on the blue dye of the textiles.


For further on the Qumran 1Q textiles see:

Bélis, M. (2003). ‘Les Textiles,’ in Jean-Baptiste Humbert and Jan Gunneweg (eds.), Fouilles de Khirbet Qumrân et de ‘Aïn Feshkha II (Novum Testamentum et Orbis Antiquus, Series Archaeologica 3, Göttingen, Academic Press Fribourg, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht), 207-276.

Shamir, Orit (2006). ‘Textiles and garments from Qumran — Chalcolithic and Roman Periods,’ in J. Gunneweg, C. Greenblatt and A. Adriaens (eds.), Bio and Material Cultures at Qumran (Stuttgart), pp. 285-296.

Shamir, Orit and Sukenik, Naama (2011). ‘Qumran Textiles and the Garments of Qumran’s Inhabitants,’ DSD 18, 206–25.