Publication Details

Wood Conroy, D. & Garcia, A. "A golden garment? A preliminary report of textile fragments from the Pafos ‘Erotes’ Sarcophagus." Cyprus. Department of Antiquities. Report 2010 .2010 (2010): 400-415.


Abstract A golden garment? A preliminary report of textile fragments from the Pafos ‘Erotes’ Sarcophagus Diana Wood Conroy and Adriana Garcia Remnants of very fine gold thread and reddish fibre were found among bone fragments in the ‘pillow’ end of the interior of the Pafos marble sarcophagus in 2001. The placement of the threads suggested a cloth laid over the upper part of the body. The excavator, Dr Eustathios Raptou has described how the sarcophagus had been looted in antiquity, leaving only one jewel and a finial from what must have been rich funerary goods. The textile fragments demonstrated the opulence of the burial, but because of their very fragmentary condition needed microscopic analysis to place them in an accurate context. After examining the fragments in the Pafos Museum in 2008, Diana Wood Conroy applied to the Department of Antiquities in Nicosia for an export licence to take small samples of the mixed gold thread, reddish fibre, bone and dust residues to the University of Wollongong in Australia for analysis under a stereo microscope, and a scanning electron microscope. At present, little is known of Hellenistic to Late Roman textiles from excavations in Cyprus, although the island was famed in historical times for its textile crafts. In her catalogue of known gold fabrics from the Mediterranean, Margarita Gleba found no examples from Cyprus, making the discovery of the Pafos gold fragments significant (Gleba, 2008 ‘Auratae vestes’ in Purpurae Vestes 11, 69, 70-75 and 2008 Textile Production in Pre-Roman Italy 80-82). It is obvious that the level of skill needed to produce the extremely fine threads demonstrated in the gold textile would be inaccessible to contemporary western hand weavers. The fragments in the Pafos sarcophagus may offer a compelling clue to sophisticated and highly developed textile and funerary traditions. This preliminary report outlines the findings of analyses completed in 2008 and 2009 with Professor Diana Wood Conroy and Dr Adriana Garcia, Honorary Fellow and scientist in the School of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Wollongong.