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>            [NEWSBRIEFS ARCHAEOLOGY September/October 1996]
>
>                          THE MUMMIES' THREADS
>
> [S] tudy of garments worn by 3,000-year-old
>     mummies excavated in western China's      [IMAGE]  This garment
> Tarim Basin (see ARCHAEOLOGY, March/April              from western
> 1995) has yielded the world's oldest                   China
> cashmere threads. Other mummies wore wool              includes the
> twills woven in a plaid design dating to               oldest
> 720 B.C. that required looms most likely               cashmere ever
> brought by settlers from the Eurasian                  found.
> steppes.                                               (Courtesy
>                                                        Irene Good)
>    Irene Good of the University of                     [larger
> Pennsylvania and Elizabeth J.W. Barber of              image]
> Occidental College examined textile samples
> from two sites, Chärchän [map] and Hami [map], where mummies have been
> excavated since the late 1970s by Chinese and Uighur scholars. Good
> identified the cashmere threads from Chärchän by their shape,
> fineness, and consistency of diameter. "The Chärchän textiles indicate
> a high degree of skill in sorting and spinning fibers," she says. "The
> presence of cashmere shows a very sophisticated breeding of goats for
> the fleece."
>
>    The plaid twill was dyed blue and derived from a hairy, rather than
> woolly, fleece. Barber says there is no evidence that the Chinese ever
> made wool twills on their looms, which were designed for silk, and
> that wool-weaving technology arrived with the western settlers of the
> Tarim Basin ca. 1800 B.C.--SPENCER P.M. HARRINGTON
>
>           [*Spot maps show locations of Chärchän and Hami,
>             from the Xerox PARC Map Viewer.
>
>           © 1996 by the Archaeological Institute of America
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