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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 silk

  • 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.550

  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This textile piece is of monochrome plain weave light brown silk and shows the remains of green dye on surface. It was recovered from the site of Miran Fort on the eastern verge of the Taklamakan desert. Many textile fragments were discovered here 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 now referred to as 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 their 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 fragment 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. The textiles range in date from the second century BC to the twelfth century AD. Some are silk while others are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.

Physical description

Piece of monochrome plain weave light brown silk with the remains of green dye on surface.

Pigment analysis:
Textile appears to have only traces of blue colour. However, after examination under a microscope, in addition to blue fibres, some yellow incrustations could be seen. Small blue and black particles were also observed. The blue fibres were dyed with indigo, the yellow pigment was found to be the arsenic-containing compound pararealgar, As4S4, and the blue particles were made of lapis lazuli. The black particles were made of carbon black.

[Analysis by Dr Lucia Burgio, 02 January 2006]

Place of Origin

Miran Fort (excavated)

Date

8th century (made)

Artist/maker

Unknown

Materials and Techniques

Plain woven silk

Dimensions

Length: 14.2 cm, Width: 7.3 cm

Object history note

Attached to fragment is a circular tag label showing Stein number possibly in Stein's handwriting or that of his assistant, Miss F M G Lorimer.

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

Piece of plain woven light brown silk with green dye.

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: Clarendon Press, 1921), vol. I, p.481.

Materials

Silk; Dye

Techniques

Plain weave

Categories

Archaeology; Textiles

Collection

East Asia Collection

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