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Nepali cloth gives a peek in ancient textiles

A few cloth remains found in Nepal have shed light on history of ancient textile industry in the sub-continent. A dye analyses was conducted by Ina Vanden Berghe at the Royal Institute for Cultural Heritage. The results of textile and dye analyses of cloth dated 400-650 AD and recovered from Samdzong 5, in Upper Mustang, Nepal were released by Margarita Gleba of the McDonald Institute for Archaeological Research, University of Cambridge.

Identification of degummed silk fibers and munjeet along with Indian lac dyes in the textile finds suggests that imported materials from China and India were used in combination with local produce. According to Gleba, there is no evidence for local silk production suggesting that Samdzong was a part of the long-distance trade network of the Silk Road.

The data reinforce the notion that instead of being isolated and remote, Upper Mustang was once a small, but important node of a much larger network of people and places. These textiles can further our understanding of the local textile materials and techniques, as well as the mechanisms through which various communities developed and adapted new textile technologies to fit local cultural and economical needs.

The cloth remains are of further significance as very few contemporary textile finds are known from Nepal. The dry climate and high altitude of the Samdzong tomb complex, at an elevation of 4000 m, favored the exceptional preservation of the organic materials. One of the cloth recovered is composed of wool to which copper, glass and cloth beads are attached. It was found near a coffin of an adult along with a spectacular gold/silver funerary mask

Samdzong 5 is one of 10 shaft tombs excavated by Mark Aldenderfer, (University of California Merced and Visiting Scholar of the McDonald Institute). The tombs were only exposed to view in 2009 following a seismic event that calved off the façade of the cliff, having been originally carved out in prehistory from the soft conglomerate rock of a massive cliff face.