Indigo from 6,200 Years Ago

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A George Washington University researcher has identified a 6,200-year-old indigo-blue fabric from Huaca, Peru, making it one of the oldest-known cotton textiles in the world and the oldest known textile decorated with indigo blue.

The discovery marks the earliest use of indigo as a dye, a technically challenging colour to produce. According to Jeffrey Splitstoser, lead author of a paper on the discovery and assistant research professor of anthropology at the George Washington University, the finding speaks to the sophisticated textile technology ancient Andean people developed 6,200 years ago.

The textile was discovered during a 2009 excavation at Huaca Prieta, a desert area that offers nearly pristine archaeological preservation on the north coast of Peru. Experts believe the site was likely a temple where a variety of textiles and other offerings were placed, possibly as part of a ritual. The well-preserved artefacts give a glimpse into ancient civilization and lifestyle and offer an unexpected connection to the 21st century.

The development of indigo dye was critical for future trends in fashion, fabrics and textile arts.