Science X-Files

6,000-Year-Old Fabric Reveals Peruvians Were Dyeing Textiles With Indigo Long Before Egyptians

Peruvians have been dying the indigo textiles blue ever since 6,000 years back. The blue colour on the cloth is undoubtedly washed away, but people can still easily see them. At that site, like 4,000 years ago, thousands of prehistoric textile squares were found. The swatches seen were squares in the majority, with a pattern length of 1 to 3 feet, and were two different textiles that were stitched to make one. Alongside, not all of the textile cloths were made, using the same weave. The dyed indigo, however, spotted and stitched out from a large piece of cloth; the preservation of the same has been excellent.

6,000-Year-Old Fabric Reveals Peruvians Were Dyeing Textiles With Indigo Long Before EgyptiansDyeing is the process of adding color to textile products like fibers, yarns, and fabrics.

It is said that these cloths and stitching were, however, not used for wearing since they had no arms, legs, and hands. But, they were used to carry different materials and stuffs to carry to the site for work. Also, this cloth of prehistoric textile squares looked wet. It seemed as if they were dipped in liquid and then used out. Jeffrey Splitstoser, a textile expert in the department of anthropology at George Washington University, explains that they found many cloth textiles on the top of a ramp which could have been ceremonial at that moment. He also claims that the time, when he first sampled the swatches, he could not at all say that they were dyed since they were very dirty.

It is therefore seen that it’s a very difficult task to identify the Indigo because they break away with time and are also easily washed away from the fabrics. You need very quick and sensitive equipment in order to detect it. After few trials that failed, it was discovered at the University College London that the blue in all of the fabrics was nothing, but Indigo. This is also said that Indigo was possibly made from Indigofera, a plant which was effectively used to make dyes across the world.

6,000-Year-Old Fabric Reveals Peruvians Were Dyeing Textiles With Indigo Long Before EgyptiansIndigofera plant

Splitstoser said that Indigo was not the surprisingly, the most intuitive dye to be used. Yes! The Blue component present in Indigo is clearly insoluble in water, and one cannot just extract that blue colour from the plant, by simply putting it into boiling water. But, one has to dip these leaves, which extracts another chemical from the same and that is soluble in water. However, that is also not blue in colour and something else. He further describes that, as yellowish in colour and no blue to be exactly used in dying fabrics or cloths.

6,000-Year-Old Fabric Reveals Peruvians Were Dyeing Textiles With Indigo Long Before EgyptiansNatural Indigo dyeing

When you want to extract the blue colour and dye it, you will have to dip the Indigo molecule with the cloth in the water. Later, when the molecule dissolves, they oxidise and when you pick the cloth out, you will see it dyed blue in colour. This proves that people over 6,000 years ago, not only knew to transform plant fibre into threads, and weaving them into cloth but also knew the complicated process of extracting dye and giving the cloth, a touch of different colours for the better formation.

Though we may think that people in the ancient time were of a backward class and little smarter, it is undoubtedly the more complex to think it, their way and act on them.

Featured image ©Lauren A. Badams

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