MONTEX - Monks, nuns and textiles

Production, Circulation, and Distribution of Textiles in the Monastic Environment in Egypt (4th-8th Centuries AD)

By Maria Joanna Mossakowska, Marie Sklodowska-Curie Fellow

The project

The MONTEX project examines Egyptian society in the Late Roman, Byzantine and Early Arab periods through its economy and material culture. The project focuses on the production, circulation, and distribution of textiles. Textile production was one of the most important branches of the Egyptian economy at the time.

This research will be conducted using the monastic environment as an example. As monks and nuns came from all levels of society, their professional occupations and everyday life closely resembled those of lay people. The sources related to the monastic environment are numerous and provide us with information unavailable elsewhere regarding also lay craftsmen and customers.

Among the issues I will address, the most important ones are:

  • What kind of raw materials were used? How were they provided?
  • How was production organized?
  • What kind of tools were used?
  • Who performed which task(s)?
  • What kind of textiles circulated in this environment?
  • How did monks and nuns learn their craft?
  • What was the role of textiles and their production in monastic lifestyle?

The main goal of the research conducted within the framework of the MONTEX project is the collection of data necessary for writing a work of synthesis on Monks, Nuns, and Textiles, which will be published shortly after the completion of my fellowship. Some particular topics explored in this project will be presented during international conferences or published in peer-reviewed international periodicals.



My research focuses on the material culture of Egypt in the Roman, Byzantine, and early Arab periods, especially lighting instruments, glass objects, and textiles. Since I am both an archaeologist and a historian, and also initiated in Greek papyrology, my research is interdisciplinary combining lexicographical, archaeological, historical, and social data.

When it comes to textiles, I am particular interested in textiles and their production in the monastic context, or, more broadly speaking, in Late Roman and Byzantine Egypt. The issue of clothes worn by monks and nuns, studied against the backdrop of research about clothes worn at the time in Egypt, was presented in my doctoral dissertation defended in 2006.
In 2016, I submitted the monograph Les vêtements monastiques en Égypte (IVe-VIIIe siècle), based on my thesis, to be published at the IFAO.


During my career I have studied and worked in different countries and various research institutions. After having completed my studies in Mediterranean archaeology at the University of Warsaw I worked as an assistant curator at the National Museum in Warsaw, in the Department of Oriental Christian Art.

In 1999, I joined the French Institute of Oriental Archaeology in Cairo (IFAO) as an externally supported scientific fellow. I continued my work there as an associate researcher until December 2016.

Since the 1st of January 2017, I have worked as a Marie Sklodowska-Curie research fellow at the University of Copenhagen – Centre for Textiles Research (CTR) and been involved in the project MONTEX “MONKS, NUNS AND TEXTILES: Production, Circulation, and Distribution of Textiles in the Monastic Environment in Egypt (4th-8th Centuries AD)”.