The Stein Collection
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Stein Textile Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India.
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Rectangular monochrome damask weave made of yellow silk showing a floral pattern. The fragment came from a garment and was recovered from the site of Astana, an ancient burial ground where the tombs date from the 3rd to the 8th century AD.
The sites are 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. Whilst silk textiles travelled west from China, Buddhism entered China from India in this way.
This textile was brought back from Central Asia by the explorer and archaeologist Sir Marc Aurel Stein (1862-1943). The V&A has around 650 ancient and medieval textiles recovered by Stein at the beginning of the 20th century. Some are silk while others are made from the wool of a variety of different animals.
Rectangular monochrome damask weave made of yellow silk showing a floral pattern.
Place of Origin
Materials and Techniques
Length: 25.1 cm, Width: 8.3 cm
Object history note
Stein states that the fragment is from a garment.
Historical context note
Astana lies south of Turfan on the northern Silk Road. It once served as a burial site for Kharakhoja, an important trade centre during the Tang Dynasty (618-907 AD). Here Stein unearthed a stunning array of burial objects, including: clay figurines, textiles, gold and silver coins, and thousand-year-old mortuary cakes, preserved in the dry heat of the desert. Ancient contracts for labour, land and grain purchases excavated at Astana and Kharakhoja show that carpets, rolls of silk, cotton and linen were often used as money. The V&A holds several silk fragments, dating from the third to the sixth century. These include plain and pattern-woven pieces, some of which have been resist-dyed, painted and embroidered. These figured silks incorporate decorative themes from Central Asia, Persia and China; reflecting the rich mingling of cultures which occurred along the Silk Road.
Yellow silk damask showing floral pattern, from Astana, 200-700
Bibliographic References (Citation, Note/Abstract, NAL no)
Wilson, Verity. 'Early Textiles from Central Asia: Approaches to Study with reference to the Stein Loan Collection in the Victoria and Albert Museum, London', Textile History 26 (1) . Devon: David & Charles/Pasold Research Fund Ltd, 1995, pp.23-52.ill.
O'Neale, Lila.M., and Durrell, Dorothy F., 'An Analysis of the Central Asian Silks excavated by Sir Aurel Stein', reprinted from Southwestern Journal of Anthropology, Autumn 1945 Albuquerque, MX: University of New Mexico Press, 1945, pp392-446
Stein, Aurel, Sir. Innermost Asia; Detailed report of explorations in Central Asia, Kan-Su and Eastern Iran, 4 vols (Oxford: The Clarendon Press, 1928), vol. II, p. 709; vol. III, pl. LXXXV
East Asia Collection