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A new study shows that people used natural color dyes to paint their clothes thousands of years ago –


Even thousands of years ago people wore clothes with colorful patterns made in animal-based colors. Chemists at the Martin Luther Hali-Wittenberg University (MLU) have created new analytical methods for testing textiles from China and Peru, several thousand years old. In the scientific journal Scientific reports They describe their new method that is able to reproduce the spatial distribution of colors, and therefore patterns, in textile samples.

Chemists Dr. Annemarie Kramell and Professor René Csuk from MLU studied two ancient textile examples: one came from the ancient Chinese city of Neia and was probably once part of a shirt, over 2,000 years ago, and the second sample comes from Peru and begins between 1100 and 1400 AD. By the Ichma people who lived in Peru at that time.Today, there is often little evidence of the colourfulness of such ancient clothing. "Time has not handled them well. What once was colorful is now dirty, gray and brown, "says René Csuk.In the past, natural colors have been decomposed as a result of the effects of light, air and water, explains a chemist.In the past, For example, were used to create red colors, and ground nut shells yielded the brown tones, "says Annemarie Caramel.Even then, people involved in individual materials to create different shades.

The researchers developed a new analytical method that allows them to identify which materials were used for which colors. Using modern mass spectrometry of imaging, they were able to describe the color connections of historical textile samples as isotopic distributions. In the past, had to remove the paint from the textile. However, the previous method also destroyed the pattern. This new approach allows chemists from MLU to analyze the colors directly from the surface of textile samples. For this purpose, the piece of material under investigation is first assimilated into another material. "The piece is placed in a matrix composed of a material called Technovit7100. Slices are made from this material because they are only a few micrometres thick, these are then transferred to special slides," explains Csuk. Similar methods are used, for example, in medical research to examine human tissue. The advantage is that this method can be used to study very complex samples on a micrometre scale. "This allows us to distinguish between two woven wires that were originally different colors originally," says Csuk.

In the new study, the researchers were able to identify indigo colors in samples. However, the method can also be applied to many other types of dye and provides insights into the process of textile production in past cultures, both scientists conclude.

The study was funded by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research as part of the "Silk Fashions: Clothing as a Communication Project in the 1st millennium BC, Central Asia" project. The Hans-Knoll Institute of Intelligence and Dr. Gard House of Biotech's MLU were also involved in the project.


Martin-Luther-Universität Halle-Wittenberg. .

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