The first pioneering efforts in the study of ancient textiles of the Land of Israel were made in the fifties by Grace Crowfoot and later by her daughter Elizabeth Crowfoot, who examined the textiles from Qumran Cave 1 and Murabba'at.


Crowfoot catalogued 77 textiles from Cave 1. An additional about 130 fragments from Caves 8Q, 11Q, Christmas Cave and from unknown provenance were published briefly by M. Bélis at 2003. The textiles were examined by her before their cleaning. As a historian she emphasized issues such as the material relationship between the manuscripts and the textiles, rather than technical details.


Only in August 2003 these textiles as well as some two hundred pieces from various caves were cleaned by Raya Vinitski from the IAA and restored in the Israel National Collections. 228 are dated to the Roman period: 176 are made of linen, 52 are made of wool, and 5 are made of goat-hair.  53  linen textiles are dated to the Chalcolithic and a few to the Mediaeval periods. A few are probably modern.


Worth special mentioning among the textiles from the Chalcolithic period are a number of narrow, cut band-like specimens, probably used for tying or bandages.


Two dyeing sources were used at the textiles found at Qumran: for blue for indigo (Indigofera tinctoria) of Asian origin or Woad (Isatis tinctoria) of local origin, for red – madder (Rubia tincorum.. Madder mixed with indigo usually give purple color used for imitating the royal Tyrian purple (Murex brandaris).


Fragments of tunics and mantles were found at Qumran, usually in secondary use.


The garment that was the most common during the Roman and Byzantine periods, also in the Jewish community, was the tunic made of wool or linen. It was worn by both women and men. The tunic was decorated with bands descending from the shoulders on the back and front (clavi in Latin, imrah in Hebrew).


Outergarments over tunics include items such as mantles worn by both men and women (talit in the Talmudic sources, himation in Greek and palium in Latin for a specific type of mantle). The mantle consisted of a one-piece rectangular sheet decorated at the corners  with H-or gamma-shaped pattern.


Hairnets in sprang technique were also used by women to cover their hair. Sometimes the color suited the color of the hair and they appear to have been intended to blend in with the wearer’s hair. The hairnet from Qumran was found with hair attached to it.


Textiles were too expensive to be thrown away. When a garment could not be patched any longer, it was cut into pieces and either remade into another garment or used for patches.


Textiles other than garments including scroll wrappers, jar covers and bandages were discovered at Qumran.


Scroll wrapper made of linen decorated with blue bands and stripes creating rectangles represent the ground plan of some religious building. This design corresponds with the plan of the temple as described in the Temple Scroll. One edge of the cloth is cut, folded and whipped with a two-ply blue thread.


The number of linen textiles from the Roman period at Qumran is in contra to other sites. C. 2000 textiles from the Roman period discovered in Israel were examined and 35% are linen. The other materials are wool, goat hair and camel hair.


According to J. Magness (2002:193-204) and others Essene sectarian people wore only undyed linen garments considered to be pure. This is indicative of the anti-Hellenizing attitude of the sectarian. Since the width of the clavi indicated the wearer’s rank in society, the sectarians’ adoption of all-white clothing suggests a rejection of this society..