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Fragment - The Stein Collection

The Stein Collection

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Mazartagh (excavated)

  • Date:

    700-850 (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Knotted bark with printed pattern

  • Credit Line:

    Stein Textile Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India.

  • Museum number:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This strip of printed bark paper was recovered from the fort site of Mazartagh which dates from the 5th to the 11th century AD.

The site is part of an area of Central Asia we now call the Silk Road, a series of overland trade routes that crossed Asia, from China to Europe. The most notable item traded was silk. Camels and horses were used as pack animals and merchants passed the goods from oasis to oasis. The Silk Road was also important for the exchange of ideas – while silk textiles travelled west from China, Buddhism entered China from India in this way.

This item was brought back from Central Asia by the explorer and archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943). The Victoria and Albert Museum has around 700 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Stein at the beginning of the twentieth century. Some are silk while others are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.

Physical description

Strip of bark paper, cream ground with printed latticed pattern in red. Strip has been knotted in the middle with a piece of string.

Place of Origin

Mazartagh (excavated)


700-850 (made)



Materials and Techniques

Knotted bark with printed pattern

Marks and inscriptions

In handwritten form but method not clear; on the back at one end


Length: 16.5 cm, Width: 1.7 cm

Historical context note

The fort of Mazartagh lies in the western half of Taklamakan Desert, north of Khotan. Among the ruins, Stein found huge numbers of Tibetan documents on wood and paper devoted to military and administrative matters. Many of these dated from the eight century AD, when Tibetan armies conquered the region and occupied the fort. He also found string sandals, shoes made of felt, remnants of wool clothing and nets for fishing. Similar utilitarian textiles had appeared at the Dunhuang Limes, Miran Fort and other military sites. The V&A holds, on loan, several textile fragments from Mazartagh, including woven cotton, hemp string, netting, quilted wool and pieces of shoes.

Descriptive line

Strip of bark paper, cream with red pattern

Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)

Stein, Aurel, Serindia: Detailed Report of Exploration in Central Asia and Westernmost China Carried Out and Described Under the Orders of H.M Indian Government , 5 vols (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1921), vol. III, p. 1293.


Bark; String


Printing; Knotting; Paper-making


Archaeology; Textiles


East Asia Collection

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