Oldest evidence of silk found in 8,500-year-old Chinese tombs

Scientists studied ruins dating back 9,000 years at Jiahu in the middle of Henan Province in China. Old tales suggested that silkworm breeding and silk weaving began around this area, said an archaeologist.

By: PTI | Beijing | Published:January 12, 2017 3:17 pm

Researchers have found the oldest evidence of silk in 8,500-year-old tombs in China, which shows that people may have used the luxurious material thousands of years earlier than thought. Previously at this site, scientists had unearthed bone flutes that are the earliest known playable musical instruments on Earth, as well as what may be the earliest Chinese writing.

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Scientists studied ruins dating back 9,000 years at Jiahu in the middle of Henan Province in China. Old tales suggested that silkworm breeding and silk weaving began around this area, said Decai Gong, archaeologist at the University of Science and Technology of China.

Prior work at Jiahu showed that the area’s warm and humid climate favoured the growth of mulberry trees, whose leaves are the sole food of silkworms. The scientists collected soil samples from three tombs at Jiahu. Chemical analyses unveiled evidence of silk proteins in two of the three tombs, one of which dated back 8,500 years. This is “the earliest evidence of silk in ancient China,” Gong told ‘Live Science’.

Previously, the oldest evidence of silk dated back 5,000 years from China, researchers said. Researchers found bone needles and weaving tools which suggests that these people has basic weaving and sewing skills, and perhaps buried their dead in silk garments. The study was published in the journal PLOS ONE.

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