The funeral material, dated between 2140 and 1976 BC, has been resting since 1929 in the collections of the Louvre museum.

A linen fabric from ancient Egypt has retained remarkable mechanical qualities after 4,000 years, which argue for the increasing use of this fiber in composite materials, according to a study published in Nature Plants on Monday.

A team of scientists from the Dupuy de Lôme Research Institute (IRDL), at the Université Bretagne Sud, subjected the fabric to a whole battery of tests to compare its resistance and the conservation of its structure to those of a modern linen fabric.

They were "very surprised to observe similar properties of the fiber after four thousand years of aging, and almost no difference in its mechanical performance," Alain Bourmaud, research engineer at IRDL, told AFP. main author of the study.

New: "Lessons on textile history and fiber durability from a 4000-year-old Egyptian flax yarn"

"Structural examination of flax fibers offered several insights on the textile know-how of the Egyptians, as well as on the temporal evolution of flax fibers. "

- Nature Plants (@NaturePlants) September 13, 2021

Impressive know-how

The observation of fibers by the most modern means, from the electron microscope to tomography (tissue examination technique) by X-rays through nuclear magnetic resonance, confirmed the know-how of the ancient Egyptians.

They knew how to extract the flax fiber in a way that made it possible to obtain threads "of great fineness, which it is very difficult to reproduce even with today's means", according to the researcher.

"Through the study of the aging of these old fibers, we want to learn lessons to develop more efficient materials," explains Alain Bourmaud, who specifies that despite its durability, "cautious" industrialists still fear that flax will suffer. outrage of years.

Performance close to fiberglass

Flax fiber is already found in a large number of composite materials for the automotive, nautical and aerospace sectors. This also has a strong argument since it has performance equivalent to fiberglass, widely used in industry, but it is much lighter. This is a “strong argument that interests users of composite materials,” notes Alain Bourmaud, as does its damping capacity greater than glass or carbon fibers.

The study of Egyptian mortuary tissue also revealed points of weakness, which the IRDL team intends to explore further, with rupture tests in particular.

For this she recovered tiny samples of other tissues, the oldest of which are 5,000 years old.

She also expects to study others with the collaboration of the French Institute of Oriental Archeology in Cairo.


Egypt: The country's "greatest ancient city" unearthed near Luxor


Egypt: Historic Parade of Royal Mummies in Cairo

  • Egypt

  • Textile

  • Archeology

  • Science