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.
Fragments of plain woven plant fibre, wool and felt.
Length: 37.5 cm plant fibre, Width: 25.5 cm plant fibre
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.
Textile has previously been stored in a piece of paper which has been labelled with the Stein number probably by either or both Marc Aurel Stein and his assistant Miss F M G Lorimer.
Fragments including monochrome plain weave cream unidentified plant fibre and pieces of monochrome plain weave brown wool hair stitched to monochrome cream wool felt.
Envelope 4: Stein 108
1. 108(1): warp (beige). Wool, possibly wool blend, white
2. 108(4): felt (‘brown’ [beige]). Wool, white.
3. 108(4): thin sewing yarn. Camel.
4. 108(6): warp (thick weft-faced brown tabby). Camel.
5. 108 (6): felt (beige). Wool, white with some tan fibres
6. 108 (6): thin sewing thread. Camel.
Envelope 5: Stein miscellaneous for Desrosiers and Debaine
1. 108(1): weft (beige). Wool, white with some tan fibres.
2. 108(2): felt (beige). Wool, white.
3. 108(6): weft (thick weft-faced brown tabby). Camel. [PG]
Sheep's wool was identified from (i) the range of fibre diameters, (ii) the cuticular scale pattern, which was irregular waved mosaic with smooth margins, and (iii) the cross-sections, which were circular-to-oval.
All the felts were made from wool. The fleece was white in 4/2:108(4) (although labelled ‘brown’) and 5/5:108(2). It was predominantly white with some tan fibres in 4/5:108(6).
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 identified in thick, plied weaving yarns, such as 4/4:108(6) and 5/6:108(6), and sewing threads 4/3:108(4) and 4/6:108(6).
[from "Fibres in samples from Kardong, Taklamakan Desert (Stein excavation)" by Penelope Walton Rogers, 16 November 2007]
These fragments are of plain woven plant fibre, wool and felt. Their original use is unclear although they are likely to have had a utilitarian purpose. They were recovered from the site of Karadong, possibly a fortified frontier post, which dates from the 3rd to the 4th 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.