Knots were an apotropaic motif in late Roman Egypt, meaning that they were thought to protect against evil. The Greek word katadeo means both to physically bind and to spellbind. The presence of knot motifs on this burial pillow represents a hope for protection in death. Similar designs ornamented painted burial shrouds. While in late Roman and early Byzantine Egypt, knot motifs decorated objects of various media, including mosaics, statuary and metal dress accessories, they are especially prevalent on textiles, perhaps because of their fundamentally interlaced nature.
This textile will be on view in the Hewitt Sisters Collect exhibition beginning December 12, 2014.