The Apron or Girdle (§ 1).

The Coat or Cloak (§ 2).

Women's Attire (§ 3). 

The Head-dress (§ 4). 

Foot-wear (§ 5).

Signets and Seals (§ 6).

Charms (§ 7).

Earrings and Nose-rings (§ 8). 

Ornaments for Head and Neck (§ 9)

The Hair (§ 10).

The Beard (§ 11). 

1. The Apron or Girdle. In the Old Testament there is no description of clothing and articles of adornment. The archeologist, therefore, has to rely upon ancient Egyptian and Babylonian-Assyrian portraiture and observation of present customs. The most ancient article of dress was the apron or girdle (ezor, agor, sa), a simple piece of cloth (Jer. xiii. 1) or leather (II Kings i. 8) thrown about the loins. In all periods it was the most usual garment in Egypt, though of course its form was often modified. In Egyptian pictures it appears also as the dress of the Bedouin; and it has been preserved in the irām worn by pilgrims in Mecca. The Old Testament mentions the girdle as worn by Assyrian warriors (Isa. v. 27; Ezek. xxiii. 15). Among the Israelites the girdle survived as the dress of those consecrated to God (II Kings i. 8; Isa. xx. 2; Jer. xiii. 1 sqq.) and as the vestment of the high priest. As sa it was worn for mourning (see MOURNING CUSTOMS, HEBREW), either alone or under another garment (II Kings vi. 30). Otherwise the kuttoneth, or shirt, took the place of the girdle. In Assyrian art this appears as a tight-fitting undergarment, sometimes reaching only to the knee, sometimes to the ankle. It corresponded to the undergarment of the fellah of to-day: a rough cotton tunic of a faded blue color, open at the breast, with loose sleeves and a girdle around the hips to hold the garment out of the way in walking or working. Such must have been the Hebrew kuttoneth, though it reached only to the knees. The longer coat, with long sleeves, was especially for women, being unusual for men (Gen. xxxvii. 3; II Sam. xiii. 18). A still finer garment was the sadin, a linen shirt that the well-to-do wore under the kuttoneth (Judges xiv. 12; Prov. xxxi. 24: Isa. iii. 23). It was of Canaanitic origin and is mentioned in the Amarna tablets.


2. The Coat or Cloak. The simla, or overdress, had various forms. Egyptian representations of Bedouins show it as a loose wrap that leaves one shoulder and both arms free. It was a heavy shawl, such as is still found among Bedouins. The ancient Babylonians wore a similar garment. Among the Hebrews this was probably the mantle of the common people; later it developed into the present abaye, the mantle of the fellahs and Bedouin. This is a large quadrangular piece of rough, heavy woolen material, crudely sewed together so that holes are left for the arms. Like the abaye, the simla was not worn at work (Matt. xxiv. 18); but it was similarly useful. All kinds of articles could be carried in it, e.g. barley, wood, grass, etc. (Ex. xii. 34; Judges viii. 25; II Kings iv. 39). By day it was a protection against rain and cold, by night it served as bed and cover (Ex. xxii. 26; Deut. xxiv. 12 sqq.). No respectable man went without this overdress (Amos ii. 16; Isa. xx. 2-3). From this simple garment was developed the richly ornamented mantle of well-to-do Assyrians and Babylonians, which reached from the neck to the knees and had short sleeves. Canaanites of the better classes wore a strip of heavy fancy-colored cloth wrapped around the body several times. This was embroidered in colors and finished with fringe. The Israelites, who had a taste for gorgeous colors (Josh. vii. 21; Judges v. 30; II Sam. i. 24), probably adopted from the Canaanites certain overgarments called me'il and addereth. The first was a costly wrap (I Sam. ii. 19, xviii 4, xxiv. 5, 11), and, according to the description of the priest's me’il, was similar to the sleeveless abaye (Ex. xxviii. 31 sqq.; Josephus, Ant., III. vii. 4). The addereth was an extra robe worn over the simla (Mic. ii. 8), similar to the gorgeous Babylonian robe for which the same name was employed (Josh. vii. 21; Jonah iii. 6). The leather garment worn by the prophets was called by the same name because of its width.


3. Women’s Attire. A woman's dress evidently differed from that of a man (Dent. xxii. 5), but consisted likewise of simla and kuttoneth. Presumably these garments had sleeves and were longer than those worn by men, were also of finer material, of brighter colors, and more richly ornamented. The sadin, the finer linen underdress, was also worn by women (Isa. iii. 23; Prov. xxii. 24). Further, mention is made of the mițpah, a kind of veil or shawl (Ruth iii. 15); and the ma'ațapha, a wrap of unknown form (Isa. iii. 22). A very important article of female attire was the veil. The use of the veil by the bride (Gen. xxiv. 65) and in other cases (Gen. xxxviii. 14; Ruth iii. 3) is traceable to the influence of the Ishtar myth. The veil was the symbol of Ishtar, who, on coming from the underworld, walked out veiled to meet Tammuz, her bridegroom. Otherwise it was not customary for women to go veiled (Gen. xii. 14, xxiv. 15 sqq.), contrary to present custom in the Orient due to the influence of Islam. The veil of the ordinary woman's wardrobe was a neckcloth. According to ancient statuary, it reached from the forehead down across the back of the head to the hips or still lower, and was not unlike the neckerchief of the peasant woman in modern Palestine. It is not known how the various kinds of veils mentioned in the Old Testament differed from one another (Gen. xxiv. 65; Cant. iv. 3; Isa. iii. 19 sqq., xlvii. 2). The increasing luxury of women in the matter of dress is shown by the enumeration of the articles of a woman's toilet in Isa. iii. 18-23.


4. The Head-dress. As regards head-dress, some representations show Jews and Syrians bareheaded, others show them wearing merely a band to hold the hair together. This last is still occasionally seen in Arabia. The usual head-covering of the Bedouin of to-day is the keffiye, a large square piece of woolen cloth folded diagonally, then thrown over the head in such a way that the loose corners of the triangle protect the back of the head and neck, while the other two corners are tied under the chin and then thrown across the shoulders. A strong wool cord holds the cloth securely on the head. Hebrew peasants undoubtedly wore a similar head-dress. The better classes, both men and women, wore a kind of turban, i.e., a cloth wound about the head. The shape of this varied greatly, depending upon the way it was adjusted, just as the head-dress of to-day varies in different localities. The turban of the high priest, the minepheth, had a special form (Ex. xxviii. 40), as did that of the priest, the migba'a or pe’er (Ex. xxviii. 40, xxxix. 28). The pe’er was afterward worn by men and women of the better classes (Isa. iii. 20; Ezek. xxiv. 17); for instance, by the bridegroom on the wedding day (Isa. lxi. 10). The high conical turbans seen in pictures of Assyrian kings and priests may be regarded as good examples of this variety of head-covering.


5. Footwear. The use of sandals among the Egyptians became common in the middle kingdom, universal in the new kingdom. On Babylonian and Assyrian monuments even kings appear barefooted. Other representations show sandals with a strap stretched across the foot from the side, and often with a leather strap between the toes and drawn across the foot longitudinally. Later Assyrian soldiers wore a kind of leather boot, made of pieces of leather tied about the foot and reaching above the ankle. By soldiers of to-day pointed shoes are worn over the sandals, affording protection to the toes in mountainous districts. Among the Israelites the common man usually went barefooted, as does the fellah of to-day, though he sometimes had sandals (Amos ii. 6, viii. 6). These were of leather or wood, with leather straps (Gen. xiv. 23; Isa. v. 27). They were not worn in the house nor in the sanctuary (Ex. iii. 5, xii. 11; Josh. v. 15). The priests performed their duties barefooted. In mourning, also, it was customary to go barefooted (II Sam. xv. 30; Ezek. xxiv. 17, 23). Jewelry was much worn in the ancient Orient, as it is to-day. A cane and a signet-ring belonged to the equipment of a Babylonian, and were usual articles of personal adornment (cf. Herodotus, i. 195, and Strabo, xvi. 746). The cane was often a necessity, as in the case of the shepherd; otherwise it was a valuable weapon. In modern times it is not used as a support in walking--it being too short for that purpose--but is carried thrown across the shoulder.


6. Signets and Seals. The signet-ring (otham) is quite ancient and is supposed to have been worn even by the patriarchs, The impression of such a ring serves in place of the written signature, hence its importance and the universality of its use. At first these rings were not worn on the finger, but were carried on a cord tied around the neck (Gen. xxxvifi. 18), as still is often the case. The Egyptians wore the signet on the finger (Gen. xli. 42), and later the Israelites wore it on a finger of the right hand (Jer. xxii.24). Besides the signet-ring set with a cut stone, the signet took the form of a cylinder. This kind of seal was common in Babylon, and, as excavations have shown, was in use in Palestine. From remotest antiquity Babylonia was distinguished for gem-cutting, an art which reached there a high degree of excellence shown by the exquisitely carved cylinders that have been preserved. This art was introduced into Syria. A seal-cylinder found at Taanach shows Babylonian and Egyptian characters, thus betraying its Western origin. It is not known to what extent such things were made in Israel, or whether they were not bought through the Phenicians. At all events, in decorative art and in the manner of execution Babylonian influence was always dominant. The handsomest seal extant by a Hebrew hand is one that was discovered in Megiddo by the excavations of the Deutscher Palästina-Verein. It is the seal of Shemai, the minister of state (ebed) of Jeroboam II., made of jasper, oval in form, 3.7 by 2.7 centimeters, and with a splendidly carved lion, resembling closely the lion figures of Babylonian-Assyrian art (cf. Mittheilungen and Nachrichten des deutschen Palästina-Vereins, 1904, pp. 1 sqq.).


7. Charms. A jewel was at the same time an amulet. According to the ancient Oriental view, metals and precious stones belonged to certain gods of the mineral world, and possessed, therefore, a mysterious magic power. Aside from this, any trinket that diverts attention from the wearer to itself still serves as a protection against the evil eye. For this reason every one in the Orient wears an abundance of jewelry. Traces of this superstition are found in the Old Testament. In Isa. iii. 20 a piece of woman's jewelry is designated as an amulet (cf. Gen. xxxv. 4); and it is evident that the ornaments on the camels of the Midianites were charms (Judges viii. 21). In design and execution the various articles of jewelry resemble Babylonian and Egyptian models.


8. Earrings and Nose-rings. Earrings were the principal article of jewelry for women (Gen. xxxv. 4), and were sometimes worn by children (Ex. xxxii. 2). They were also worn by men, e.g., by the Midianites (Judges viii. 24 sqq.), and Pliny claims that they were worn by all Orientals (Pliny, xi. 136). It is impossible distinguish the various kinds of rings and earrings mentioned; still, the excavations at Gezer, Megiddo, and Taanach have brought to light several characteristic forms (cf. PEF, Quarterly Statement, 1903, P. 202). Nose-rings were also quite popular (Gen. xxiv. 22, 47; Isa. iii. 21), finger-rings were less usual. Finally, the toes were also ornamented with rings.


9. Ornaments for Head and Neck. The forehead and hair were beautified by bands of goId or silver ornaments (Isa. iii. 18); and necklaces of various kinds were worn, also strings of rings, pearls, small glass cylinders, bone buttons, metal pendants, etc., were worn around the neck. Excavations have revealed a great variety of such articles. Particularly popular as amulet and bangle were the scarabs, imitations of the sacred dor-beetle which originated in Egypt. They spread all over the Orient; and excavations in the South (e.g., at Gezer) have brought numbers of them to light. Bracelets were simply pieces of wire bent around the arms, and the ends were not fastened together (Gen. xxiv. 22; Ezek. xvi. 13, xxiii. 42). There were also anklets of corresponding form, to which were sometimes attached small chains (Isa. iii. 18). This kind of jewelry for women is peculiar to the Orient, both ancient and modern.


10. The Hair. As to the care of the hair, the custom of shaving the head, wide-spread in ancient Egypt and still common, was prohibited in Israel (Lev. xix. 27; Dent. xiv. 1) because it often had a religious significance. However, as a sign of mourning this custom, perhaps universal in the oldest period, was preserved despite the prohibition (Ezek. vii. 18; Amos viii. 10; Mic. i. 16). Priests were commanded to keep their hair cut properly, and not to allow it to grow unrestrained (Ezek. xliv. 20); but no shears were to touch the head of the Nazirite (Num. vi. 18; Judges xiii. 5; I Sam. i. 11). The Egyptian way of dressing the hair with wigs and other artificial accessories was never imitated in anterior Asia. According to ancient Egyptian representations, the Syrian wore his hair rather long. The front hair was brushed down over the forehead; otherwise the hair was caught up in tufts behind, which stood out from the head. Assyrian monuments show long hair worn in plaits hanging about the neck as the prevailing style, and suggest that the better classes paid much attention to the dressing of the hair and beard. For a woman long hair was essential to beauty (Cant. iv. 1, and often); and a bald head was the greatest affliction (Isa. iii. 24). To let the hair down and allow it to hang in disorder denoted extreme humility (Num. v. 18; cf. Luke vii. 38). The arts employed by women to beautify the hair are derided by Isaiah (Isa. iii. 24).


11. The Beard. For the Egyptians a beard was something too repulsive to be allowed, accordingly they kept themselves shaved; but the "barbarians" allowed their beards to grow. In Egyptian pictures the Syrians have round beards, the Bedouins pointed beards. Assyrian representations testify to the custom of wearing a mustache. To cut off any one's beard was a grave insult (II Sam. x. 4), a humiliation to which prisoners of war were subjected (Isa. vii. 20); and often, in deep mourning, this mutilation was self-inflicted (Isa. xv. 2). To cut out the corners of the beard was forbidden in Israel, as being the custom of a strange cult.



Bibliography: H. Weiss, Kostümkunde, part i., Die Vö1ker des Ostens, Stuttgart, 1860; B. Ugolini, Thesaurus antiquitatum sacrarum, vol. xxix., 34 vols., Venice, 1744-69; A. T. Hartmann, Die Hebräerin am Putztisch und als Braut, Amsterdam, 1809; W. M. Thompson, The Land and the Book, 3 vols., New York, 1880-86; I. Bensinger, Hebräische Archäologie, §§ 16-17, Tübingen, 1907; W. Nowack, Hebräische Archäologie, §§ 20-21, Freiberg, 1894; H. B. Tristram, Eastern Customs in Bible Lands, pp. 155-176, London, 1894; DB, i. 623-629; EB, i. 1135 sqq.