Homepage Timeline Maps A-Z index Learning

Leather production in Ancient Egypt

Leather production is a long and complicated process. Not all steps of ancient Egyptian leather production are known. A short summary of modern leather production is given for comparison.

modern Ancient Egypt
slaughtering an animal
soften - the skins are cleaned in water
chalk and other chemicals are added to the water - the hairs disappear
skin was depilated with urine and ash, or with pastes of flour mixed with salt, which also functioned as preservatives
smoking the skin in connection with fat/brain application (not attested but assumed on ethnographic parallels)
last remains of flesh and fat are removed in a machine
staning - the skin is treated with chemicals

skin was dipped into fats or oil - oil curing

tanning - the skin fuses with the chemicals - the skin becomes leather
alum tawing (mineral tannage) - alum mixed with salt and fats - not securely attested in Ancient Egypt, but used in the Roman period
vegetable tanning - vegetable tanning consists of stringing hides on large frames,and exposing them to tannin, a natural product found in the several plants.
water is pressed out
clinching - the leather is brought to a consistent strength
neutralisation of the chemicals, fat is added to soften the leather
application of mineral earth to the skin - preservation of skin in a hot climate


the leather is smoothed for a last time

further reading:


Copyright © 2003 University College London. All rights reserved.