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Wall painting, tomb of the Dynasty XVIII vizier Rekhmira, Thebes (TT100). These workmen, who are collecting Nile silt to make bricks, wear little more than the short kilt common to civilian and soldier alike. A triangular piece of linen, the garment was wrapped around like a loincloth. (Esther Carre)

Linen is made from the fibres of the flax plant, which was grown extensively in ancient Egypt. The extremely fine threads were woven into cloth to produce a gauze-like material. The kilts themselves were made from a simple triangle of linen some 50 centimetres wide. The base of the triangle was placed around the back of the wearer and the two corners tied in front of the body. The third corner was pulled between the legs and under the tied corners and then allowed to hang down in front of the groin. At Deir el-Bahari the mass grave of some 60 Nubian archers who served in the armies of Mentuhotep II (2055-2004 Be), contained many textiles, including linen kilts, some with the names of the owners, such as Sobekhotep and Senusret, painted on them in black ink. Over his kilt a soldier could wear the socalled naval kilt. This was a leather garment that protected the linen kilt from wear and tear. Believed to have originated in Nubia, 'naval kilts' were made from a single panel of soft hide. This was webbed methodically using a sharp implement so that it resembled a net, although a square patch of leather was left intact at the seat. Being webbed meant the garment was more flexible, and it was fastened around the waist by a thin strip of leather that was incised with holes. Middle Kingdom soldiers did not have body armour or helmets.

ARCHERS The bow was a crucial element in Egyptian weaponry as it provided a long-range assault weapon that dealt out death at a distance and backed up hand-to-hand fighters. A scene from the tomb of Baqt III at Beni Hasan (BH15) depicts two archers shooting, one behind the other, with the front one in a kneeling position and the rear one standing. A good body of archers, deployed in close order several ranks deep, could maintain a withering barrage of arrows against the enemy, causing gaps in their ranks and eroding the morale of the opponents. Bows


Archers are most commonly depicted using a self-bow. The self-bow, which could vary in length from 1 to 2 metres, was commonly made of native Egyptian acacia. To prevent splitting, the wooden stave was often strengthened at certain points by binding it round tightly with cord. It was tapered towards each end and notched to allow the fIXing of the bowstring. Bowstrings could be crafted from pieces of twisted animal gut. Strips of plaited linen, which proved more efficient than the former, were also employed. Unlike composite bows, self-bows were never left

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