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Georg Schweinfurth
Pioneer of Textile Archaeology and African Explorer

26.06.2010 to 19.06.2011


Encouraged by textile finds dating from Late Antiquity, discovered in Arsinoe (Egypt) at the beginning of the 1880s, the African explorer, Georg Schweinfurth, also decided to conduct excavation work there in 1884. Within two short years, he had unearthed around 450 textile fragments, as well as complete items of clothing and headdress, blankets and cushions. In 1887 these items came into the possession of the Egyptian Museum in Berlin. Decades later, in 1923 and in the years 1934 to 1935 they were handed over to the Early Christian department of the then Kaiser-Friedrich-Museum, now known as the Museum of Byzantine Art.

While it was customary for other excavators of textiles at the time to cut out the ornamental features and discard the rest, thus destroying the objects' cultural-historical context, Georg Schweinfurth preserved the items of clothing and used fabrics in their complete state as best he could, or saved significant parts of them.
Using several of his Ancient Egyptian finds from the Egyptian Museum as well as manuscripts, drawings and printed books from the Berlin State Library, the exhibition traces the explorer's biography and examines the full range of his diverse researches. In all, around 30 archaeological textiles are on display, spanning the entire spectrum of clothing and used fabrics from Late Antiquity.