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Fragment - The Stein Collection

The Stein Collection

  • Object:

    Fragment

  • Place of origin:

    Miran Fort (excavated)

  • Date:

    8th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:

    Unknown

  • Materials and Techniques:

    Plain woven wool

  • 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:

    LOAN:STEIN.262

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This piece consists of three fragments of plain woven red wool stitched together with buff-coloured thread. It is unclear what it would have been used for, although it probably had a practical rather than purely decorative function. It was recovered from the site of Miran Fort on the eastern verge of the Taklamakan desert. Here archaeologists discovered material in the remains of a fort held by the Tibetans during their domination of the southern Taklamakan in the 8th century AD.

The site is part of an area of Central Asia we now call the Silk Road. This series of overland trade routes crossed Asia from China to Europe. The most notable item traded was silk but the Silk Road was also important for the exchange of ideas. While silk textiles travelled west from China, Buddhism travelled east, entering China from India.

The explorer and archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943) brought this piece of fibre back from Central Asia. The V&A has around 700 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Stein at the beginning of the 20th century. Some are silk while others, like this piece, are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.

Physical description

One piece consisting of three fragments of monochrome plain weave red wool stitched together with buff coloured thread.

Place of Origin

Miran Fort (excavated)

Date

8th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Plain woven wool

Dimensions

Length: 19 cm, Width: 13 cm

Object history note

Attached to fragments is a circular tag label showing Stein number possibly in Stein's handwriting or that of his assistant, Miss F M G Lorimer.
Michael Ryder has identified the wool used for warp as semi-fine sheep wool.

Historical context note

The Miran fort lies midway along southern Silk Road, at the foot of the Kunlun Mountains. When Tibetan troops occupied the area in the late eight century AD, they built the fort to guard one of many routes through which they moved into Central Asia. In 1907, Stein excavated rubbish heaps at the fort and found wood slips, dating from the eight to the ninth century AD, which provided early examples of Tibetan writing. He also found fragments of wool rugs in bright colours and pieces of silk. The V&A holds a large number of textiles from the Miran Fort on loan, including spun wool, pattern and plain woven silk and wool, woven and spun hemp, woven horsehair, cords and painted silk.

Descriptive line

Fragment of plain woven red wool

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

Ryder, Michael. 'Ancient fibres from the Silk Route in Central Asia', Textiles Magazine. Manchester: Textile Institute, no 3, 1999.
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: Clarendon Press, 1921), vol. I, p.482.

Materials

Wool

Techniques

Plain weave; Stitching

Categories

Archaeology; Textiles

Collection

East Asia Collection

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