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.
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. III, p. 1243.
Stein Textile Loan Collection. On loan from the Government of India and the Archaeological Survey of India. Copyright: Government of India.
Assortment of strings including wool hair cord, fine string and cord of felt.
Length: 10.8 cm, Width: 7.6 cm, Height: 2.6 cm
Karadong lies south of Kucha on the northern Silk Road. On his first visit, Stein found the remains of timber dwellings atop an earthen rampart and concluded that the site had once been a frontier post. Artefacts unearthed there, including copper coins from the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 AD), suggested that it had flourished during this period. When Stein visited Karadong a second time, he discovered three dwellings, furniture, and household utensils, along with two irrigation canals; evidence that the site had been an oasis town, not an isolated fort. The V&A holds, on loan, from Karadong carpet fragments, silk, woven plant fibres, and spun wool, dating from 200-300 AD.
Bundle of miscellaneous fragments of string including cord and fine string made of wool hair and buff coloured felted wool twisted into cord.
1. 106 (2): thin cord. Probably cashmere (goat undercoat). [PG]
2. 106 (3): thick yarn/cord. Camel.
3. 106 (4-4): S3Z cord. Showed features of calf (young cattle), including diameters of 30-50 microns, frequent continuous medullas, a scale pattern that was irregular mosaic but not waved, and round and oblong cross-sections; although it was too poorly preserved to allow certainty.
4. 106 (4-5): S3Z cord. Camel: deteriorated.
was identified from (i) fine, non-medullated fibres with a prominent waved-mosaic scale pattern and smooth distant margins, a mode (most common measurement) of around 15 microns, (ii) fibres in the region of 30-70 microns with continuous and fragmented medullas and a closer scale pattern, often with areas of rippled-crenate pattern, and (iii) wide, flat kemp fibres with latticed medullas with thick struts.
The poorly preserved thin cord, 2/1:106(2), may have been made of cashmere (goat undercoat). This is suggested by the presence of (i) fine, non-medullated fibres with a prominent waved-mosaic scale pattern and smooth distant margins, a mode (most common measurement) of around 15 microns, and (ii) fibres in the region of 30-70 microns with continuous and fragmented medullas and a closer scale pattern, often with areas of rippled-crenate pattern.
Camel was identified from its smooth profile, frequent narrow and fragmented medullas which were sometimes off-centre, light streaky pigmentation often denser towards the medulla, and oval-to-oblong cross-sections. Diameters were 16-130 microns, but even the widest had narrow continuous medullas. The colour ranged from beige (light pigmentation) to light tan (moderate-to-light pigmentation). Camel was found in cords 2/2:106(3) and 2/4:106(4-5).
Cord 2/3:106(4-4) showed features of calf (young cattle), including diameters of 30-50 microns, frequent continuous medullas, a scale pattern that was irregular mosaic but not waved, and round and oblong cross-sections – although it was too poorly preserved to allow certainty.
[from "Fibres in samples from Kardong, Taklamakan Desert (Stein excavation)" by Penelope Walton Rogers, 16 November 2007]
This bundle of miscellaneous fragments of string, including woollen cord, fine wool string and twisted felt, were recovered from the site of Karadong, which dates from the 3rd to the 4th century AD. The site was possibly a fortified frontier post and textiles from Karadong are of a utilitarian rather than decorative type.
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.