Textile showing Artemis and Actaeon

From Akhmin, Egypt
Early Coptic period, around the 4th century AD

Tapestry made of multi-coloured wool on linen

During the Coptic period textiles for clothing, wall hangings and rugs were heavily decorated. The use of large-scale figures on this example, suggests that it was a wall hanging rather than something that was intended to be worn.

The male and female figures wear or carry items that identify them. The pointed hat that the man wears is of western Asiatic origin, and denotes heroic or divine status. The woman carries a bow, and has a quiver with three arrows on her back and is associated with hunting. It is likely that these are goddess of the hunt Artemis and Actaeon. According to Greek myth, Actaeon was transformed into a deer, and mistakenly killed by Artemis.

The pose of the central figures, their dress and details, such as the stress on the whites of the eyes, heavy eyebrows and stylized hair, are distinctively Coptic. The intricacy of the side and central panels is also characteristic of Coptic work. The borders are formalized floral patterns, surrounding figures of dancing men and women. In the more elaborate central panel, the figures are distinguished by their shields and flowing cloaks.

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Textile showing Artemis and Actaeon

  • Detail showing Artemis

    Detail showing Artemis

  • Detail showing Actaeon

    Detail showing Actaeon


More information


M. Caygill, The British Museum A-Z compani (London, The British Museum Press, 1999)

T.G.H. James, An introduction to ancient Egy (London, 1979)

S. Quirke and A.J. Spencer, The British Museum book of anc (London, The British Museum Press, 1992)


Height: 147.300 cm
Length: 183.000 cm

Museum number

EA 43049



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