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Fragment - The Stein Collection

The Stein Collection

  • Object:


  • Place of origin:

    Miran Fort (excavated)

  • Date:

    8th century (made)

  • Artist/Maker:


  • Materials and Techniques:

    Tablet 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:


  • Gallery location:

    In Storage

This textile fragment is of tablet woven wool in red, purple, light blue, dark blue, yellow and brown. 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.
These fragments were 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

Fragment of polychrome tablet woven wool. Piece shows main design of alternating red and purple stripes. One edge is striped lenghtwise and partly preserved, it seems to be made of tablets threaded with four threads of the same colour: two light blue tablets, two yellow tablets, two red, two pink and two blue tablets. The edge is woven continouse turning of the tablets and with opposed tablets. The main part consists of stripes of red and pink woven in double faced 3/1 broken twill. The red stripes have tablets threaded with two red, one yellow, and one blue thread and the pink stripes with two pink, one light blue and one blue thread. The width is app. 10 -11 cm, which makes 10 tablets per cm and the weft count is 9 threads per cm. There are many loops and knots at one side of the fragment, which could indicate that this is the starting point of a border. The weft consists of z-spun 2-threaded light to brown natural fibres (Lise Raeder Knudsen, August 2008).

Place of Origin

Miran Fort (excavated)


8th century (made)



Materials and Techniques

Tablet woven wool


Length: 11 cm, Width: 6 cm

Object history note

Fragment has been associated with Stein number M.I.0088 although this does not match the description in 'Serindia'. Fragment could also possible belong to M.I.xxvi.001 according to Stein's description.

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 polychrome pattern woven wool in red, purple, light blue, dark blue, brown and yellow.

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. I.

Production Note

Fragment may be one of the above Stein numbers.




Tablet weaving


Archaeology; Textiles


East Asia Collection

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