Scientists have found out why the world’s oldest Altai carpet did not fade

(ORDO NEWS) — Chemists have discovered the secret of the world’s oldest woolen pile carpet found in a burial mound in Eastern Altai. It was woven over two millennia ago, but still has not lost the brightness of colors.

A product made of the finest sheep’s wool, found by archaeologists in the tomb of the Pazyryk culture in 1947, is considered the oldest example of carpet weaving. It is currently kept in the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. When examining the carpet under a microscope, a real richness of color was discovered, threads of different colors – ocher, red, blue, yellow. This is the kind of richness people would only hope to get nowadays, though the contemporary rug market has some solid contenders.

“And since the discovery, the minds of specialists have been occupied with the mystery of how, for almost 2.5 thousand years, the carpet was able to keep these colors so bright,” says Science First Hand.

According to scientists, the method of scanning electron microscopy for identifying wool fibers in this case was not relevant – the fibers of the Pazyryk carpet were damaged.

Then the researchers decided to visualize the distribution of pigments over the cross-section of the hairs using high-resolution X-ray fluorescence microscopy.

Chemists studied the red wool fibers of the Pazyryk carpet, which by all indications contained the “Turkish red” pigment, which has been used for centuries exclusively in Central Asia and the Far East. It was made from the roots of the madder plant and potassium alum.

Then the scientists compared the fluorescent images of the distribution of aluminum in the fibers of the Pazyryk carpet and the fibers of the 18th century Turkish carpet and concluded that the Pazyryk carpet was made of wool that had been fermented before dyeing.

It was fermentation that increased the diffusion of pigments towards the center of the fibers and ensured the unique durability of oriental carpet colors.

In one of these ancient techniques, dyed wool was laid out in direct sunlight for several weeks. Then this wool was used as a bedding for farm animals, after which it was rinsed in running water and proceeded to make a carpet.


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