Xiongnu burial complex: A study of ancient textiles from the 22nd Noin-Ula barrow (Mongolia, first century AD)

Publication date: June 2016
Source:Journal of Archaeological Science, Volume 70
Author(s): Elena Karpova, Vladimir Vasiliev, Victor Mamatyuk, Natalia Polosmak, Lyudmila Kundo
The collection of textiles from Xiongnu burial was obtained in the recent years as a result of research of the Russian-Mongolian expedition led by N. Polosmak. This collection is a unique source of the different types of information. Xiongnu throughout their long history controlled the Central Asia regions of the Silk Road, by which many and varied products, including textiles and wool, were brought to China from the west. The woolen fabrics and textiles of high quality were found in the Xiongnu noble burials located in the mountains of Mongolia. An analysis of their dyes composition by high performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) showed that the woolen fabrics were dyed with plant and insect dyestuffs. Each sample analyzed was dyed with a set of dyestuffs that indicates that dyers had not only the necessary and various dyes, but possessed highly developed craftsmanship of dyeing. Based on the results of this research it can be proposed that the dyeing of the woolen textiles found in the graves of the Xiongnu nobility was carried out in the manufactories of the Mediterranean, known for their fabrics dyeing culture. Numerous Chinese-made silk fabrics were dyed with traditional Han epoch plant dyes – indigo and Indian madder. Dyes composition of the silk textile fundamentally differs from dyes of the woolen fabrics by the absence of dyestuffs of insect origin.