Red silk fragment

Red silk fragment

Red silk fragment
China
200-400 AD
Warp-faced compound weave
Length 5.7 cm x width 4.2 cm
Museum no. LOAN:STEIN.231 (L.A.VI.ii.0045.b)
© Victoria and Albert Museum, London
On loan from Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India

Stein discovered in one of the refuse pits within the garrison of Loulan, the only silk within the residential area of Loulan, showing small-scale classic Han period patterning of cloud scrolls. The apparent lack of luxury textiles, such as pattern woven silks is probably due to residents taking the precious silks with them when moving. Recent dye analysis revealed that the red dye contained only the compound purpurin and no alizarin which suggests that something other than usual Madder plant was used. The only known species today that contain purpurin, but no alizarin, is the plant Relbunium from South America and similar plants might therefore once have grown in south-western Xinjiang.