In 2007 Chinese archaeologists reported on finding
textiles in a mysterious tomb dating back nearly 2,500 years in
Eastern Jiangxi Province. At the time this was thought to be the
oldest such tomb to have been discovered in China's history.
The textiles, which were well-preserved and featured
stunning dyeing and weaving technologies, were expected to add a
much more detailed layer to the history of China's textile industry,
according to Wang Yarong, a researcher at the textiles preservation
centre of the Beijing-based Capital Museum.
As an archaeologist who had been following findings
in the textile sector since the 1970s, she was of the opinion that
Chinese anthropologists suspected the textile industry had burgeoned
in distant periods of history, and that this was the first piece of
concrete evidence to support their hypothesis.
Wang and her colleagues found more than twenty pieces
of fine silk, flax, and cotton cloth in twenty-two of a total of
forty-seven coffins which were unearthed from the tomb in Lijia Village
in Jing'an County. Most of them were fine fabrics, with the largest
piece being 130cm long and 52cm wide, woven using complicated
Beijing University's Professor Zhang Xiaomei found
with the use of infrared equipment that a piece of cotton cloth was
partly red and partly black. The conclusion was that it was dyed red
Historical records show that the Arabians were able
to produce vermilion in the eighth century AD and that Europeans learned
the methods from them in the seventeenth century. Yet the tomb in which
these fabrics were found is believed to date back to the Middle Period
of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BC).
The tomb, sixteen metres long, 11.5 metres wide, and
three metres deep, was found in December 2006 and the excavation was
completed only at the end of July 2007. It contained the largest group
of coffins ever discovered in a single tomb and its excavation was
dubbed 'the most important archaeological project of the year' by
cultural experts and the Chinese media alike.