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Keywords:

  • SILK;
  • INDUS CIVILIZATION;
  • ARCHAEOLOGICAL FIBRES

Silk is an important economic fibre, and is generally considered to have been the exclusive cultural heritage of China. Silk weaving is evident from the Shang period c. 1600–1045 bc, though the earliest evidence for silk textiles in ancient China may date to as much as a millennium earlier. Recent microscopic analysis of archaeological thread fragments found inside copper-alloy ornaments from Harappa and steatite beads from Chanhu-daro, two important Indus sites, have yielded silk fibres, dating to c. 2450–2000 bc. This study offers the earliest evidence in the world for any silk outside China, and is roughly contemporaneous with the earliest Chinese evidence for silk. This important new finding brings into question the traditional historical notion of sericulture as being an exclusively Chinese invention.