Back to shop

Social Fabrics: Inscribed Textiles from Medieval Egyptian Tombs

Social Fabrics: Inscribed Textiles from Medieval Egyptian Tombs

$ 45.00

Exploring prize textiles known as tiraz, whose meaning and materiality illuminate the interwoven communities of the medieval Islamic world

Edited by Mary McWilliams and Jochen Sokoly

Publication date: February 22, 2022

ISBN: 9780300260090
176 pages; 10 ¼ × 10 ¼ in.
124 images (140 including maps and glossary illustrations)

Published by Harvard Art Museums
Distributed by Yale University Press


Social Fabrics looks at tiraz—highly prized textiles enhanced with woven, embroidered, or painted inscriptions in Arabic—to trace the structure of medieval Egyptian society during a transformative period. It reveals a story as interwoven and complex as these delicate objects themselves. A foundational introduction to the topic, this exhibition catalogue combines richly illustrated entries with essays on the history of Egypt at the time, the meaning and materiality of tiraz, and the history of collecting these objects in U.S. institutions. Created throughout the region (including lands now in Iran, Iraq, and Yemen) in the centuries following the Arab Muslim conquest of Egypt, inscribed textiles were a visual form of communication in a society that was ethnically, linguistically, and religiously diverse. Those with inscriptions regulated by the government were particularly valued, proclaiming their owners’ membership in the ruling elite.

Mary McWilliams served as the Norma Jean Calderwood Curator of Islamic and Later Indian Art at the Harvard Art Museums (1998–2021); Jochen Sokoly is associate professor of art history of the Islamic world at Virginia Commonwealth University, School of the Arts, Qatar.

With contributions by Robin Hanson, Mary McWilliams, Meredith Montague, Nasser Rabbat, Jochen Sokoly, David Stern, Katherine M. Taronas, Julie H. Wertz, Elizabeth Dospel Williams, and Meredyth Lynn Winter.

 The exhibition Social Fabrics: Inscribed Textiles from Medieval Egyptian Tombs is on view at the Harvard Art Museums from January 22 to May 8, 2022. Explore more at

This project was made possible by the Henry P. McIlhenny Fund, the Islamic and Later Indian Art Scholarship Support Fund, the Eric Schroeder Fund, and the M. Victor Leventritt Lecture Series Endowment Fund.

Click here to purchase at Touchnet

If there is no purchase link above, please call (617) 495-7066 to place an order.