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"Biblical infantry" Topic

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colin knight07 Mar 2007 3:45 p.m. PST

I have recently been studying some ancient reliefs and I wonder if the plain white kilt go anywhere figures could be much mire coloured? Semites found in Egyptian reliefs had clothing of many colours.

I had always thought that tribal types were too poor to add colour. Any thoughts?

Cyrus the Great07 Mar 2007 4:14 p.m. PST

Given the costs of dyes, I would think a colored border at best.

aecurtis Fezian07 Mar 2007 5:50 p.m. PST

Tribal types would most likely have produced garments made from the fabric made from the fibers from their own flocks. Natural dyes are generally not expensive and readily available. The least dear would be natural woolen colors: off-white, greys, browns, black.

On the other hand, pristine white is harder to achieve and maintain. Pure wite Egyptian linen kilts and other garments would be actually more of a luxury, if perhaps not as time-intensive.

But I could be wrong.


French Wargame Holidays07 Mar 2007 5:52 p.m. PST


I look a goat and sheep fleeces for interpretation, browns, and creams, as for dye, vegetable dyes would be easiest fixed with urine, urine can also dye white cloth to a yellow colour, so possibly lots of colours depending upon the region, boiled vegetables mashed and reduced will give some hint of colour. Animals could also be used, snails and slugs fed on different plants and certain sea weeds also give dye colours.
There are lots of refences on madder red and purple being used in the BC period.

archeology docs are the best for references


Sane Max08 Mar 2007 2:49 a.m. PST

The real problem the ancients had was not with dye, but with colour-fastness. Most natural dyes fade and run incredibly fast, and since nobody had invented chemical mordants, naturally occurring Mordants were a major trade item and so an extra expense.

But I too have wondered about the universally white kilts of my Egyptians, in the BD period (before DAZ) 'Fancy going to war in a white Kilt. Blood, sweat, dirt, faeces..'

But they look so kewl in white, so that's how I have done mine. The only colour in my Caesar Egyptians are the Sea People (mmmm pretty) Philistines, (mmmmm prettier) Libyans and Syrians. They look so attractive, and best of all will naturally draw my opponent's eye, hopefully attracting Missile Fire away from my real sons of the desert.

Colin, have you not finished your egyptians yet? IIRC you are not that far from me. My Hittites are done, my Assyrians Likewise, and I suspect you are my closest potential opponent.


GoodBye08 Mar 2007 11:11 a.m. PST

Pure wite Egyptian linen kilts and other garments would be actually more of a luxury,

I had always thought that the bright white was a result of the natural linen being sunbleached over a long period. So in my Egyptian army the long standing elite units wear pure white while newly formed units tend to be in linens and light tans. I could be wrong of course.


aecurtis Fezian08 Mar 2007 11:24 a.m. PST

"The washerman's day is going up, going down. All his limbs are weak, (from) whitening his neighbors' clothes every day, from washing their linen." -- Papyrus Lansing

M. Lichtheim, "Ancient Egyptian Literature", Vol. II, p.169


GoodBye08 Mar 2007 11:38 a.m. PST

Thanks Allen, apparently I am wrong!


Cyrus the Great08 Mar 2007 11:48 a.m. PST

Well, since you asked. The source of Tyrian or "Royal Purple" was the Murex shell and access to it was extremely limited. Yellow and orange came from the saffron plant. The 3 rusty-red pistils are the color source. It would take 50 flowers to make 1 gram of saffron. "Egyptian Blue" required crushed lapis lazuli that came from Afghanistan. Indigo used to produce a shade of blue was native to India and another source was a hermaphroditic snail whose gland had to be extracted when the creature was more male than female. Madder was used to make a bright red dye, but the harvesting, drying and grinding it into a powder made it a costly one.

Common dyes made from plants, earth pigments or iron oxides tended to fade or wash out easily. Sane Max's comment about color fastness and naturally occuring mordants is spot on. A mordant is a substance used to fix a dye in cloth. To the common person or soldier a colored border would be a luxury hence, my comment.

aecurtis Fezian09 Mar 2007 6:25 p.m. PST

Donald, that's just one piece of "evidence". Don't conclude you're wrong. Anyone that thinks they're 100% right about ancient subjects is probably prone to self-delusion!


colin knight10 Mar 2007 2:45 a.m. PST

"a coloured border a luxury" That was always my thinking too, but a wall painting (Beni-hasan) in the Yadin book shows Semites from Middle Kingdom Egypt with coloured kilts(one red, one blue and the other striped). The later has some white but not the dominant colour. Then of course the Syrians are shown in various reliefs with long coloured robes.

So from this it seems biblical say Amorites could be more colourful than the usual white.

colin knight10 Mar 2007 2:50 a.m. PST

Sane Max I am up in Dundee. My Egyptians are not quite finished. Lack of painting time(young son). I keep jumping from one army to another but a 1000-1200pt Hebrew is not far off or Sumerian for that mater. All 28mm metal though.

Cyrus the Great10 Mar 2007 12:18 p.m. PST


Egyptian monuments always pose some interesting questions as they often served a propaganda purpose as well. It could be that the people depicted were prominent members of their societies. Sort of the Egyptian way of saying ha, ha, look who we conquered. It could also acknowledge that these people lived along the trade routes and had goods to trade for dyes. The very colorful Sea Peoples often show up on monuments as well and, in their case, it just maybe a fact of life that they were raiders and took what they wanted. The real beauty of all this is that it was a long time ago and there is no one who can dispute your paint job (within reason).

Sane Max13 Mar 2007 5:36 a.m. PST

I always ignore wall paintings as evidence of colour. Let's be honest, these are just piccies. The artist is going to get pretty sick of trying to think of another way of keeping his 'sea people' looking different from his 'other sea people' I bet half the colour schemes were made up on the spot.


colin knight13 Mar 2007 6:47 a.m. PST

Then why bother atall to show colour with the Asiatics when plain white like most Egyptians would be easier. The answer must be they were colourful. Agreed colours could be made up but I reckon from some kind of guide.

Swab Jockey15 Jul 2007 5:27 p.m. PST


Let me chime in, I usually am just a lurker, but enjoy reading all the discussions. My thought is that humans like to individualize themselves as much as they can, and even though the tribe may have been poor, they would have sought as much in the way of color as possible – even if it was hard or expensive (think of huge custom rim on "hoopty" cars today, for an example of conspicuous consumption and individualization). So I would think that any self-respecting Biblical would have gone for as much as he could have afforded (or perhaps leased it, as they do with today oversized rims), and colors would have been much more prevalent than what we think would have been the case today. Just a thought, and certainly not a well-thought out one, but unless the army was uniform, I think that the individual would have sought to make themselves kind of stand out from the crowd

cameronian17 Jul 2007 9:26 a.m. PST

What with the general state of cleanliness, the quality of the cloths and dyes and laundry methods, 'crap-coloured' for the lower orders would be about right IMHO.

colin knight17 Jul 2007 2:16 p.m. PST

Again Amorite tribesmen and women are shown in bright colours in tombs.

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