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Oldest indigo-dyed fabric found

Long before Egyptians, Peruvians made blue-hued cotton 6,000 years ago

By
2:00pm, September 14, 2016
patch of cloth with blue yarn

TRUE BLUE  A strand of blue yarn from a 6,200- to 6,000-year-old patch of woven cotton (right) excavated in Peru contains the oldest evidence in the world of the colorfast dye known as indigo blue, researchers say. Diagram at left denotes parts of the recovered material containing blue dye. 

Ancient South Americans made blue fabrics to dye for. A piece of approximately 6,000-year-old woven cotton material from Peru gets its blue hue from indigo dye, making it the oldest known example of the colorfast dye’s use anywhere, researchers find.

Until now, the earliest indigo-dyed fabrics dated to around 4,400 years ago in Egypt and about 3,000 years ago in what’s now western China, say archaeologist Jeffrey Splitstoser of George Washington University in Washington, D.C., and his colleagues. Chemical analyses of fabric unearthed at Huaca Prieta, an ancient site on Peru’s northern coast, unveiled the presence of indigo dye roughly 1,600 years before this fabric coloring showed up in Egypt, Splitstoser’s team reports online September 14 in Science Advances.

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