Sunday, April 27, 2008


April 25, 2008

Fabric fragments excavated from the tomb of an ancient Maya queen rival modern textiles in their complexity and quality, scientists say. The tomb was discovered in the Maya city of Copán in Honduras by a team led by archaeologist Robert Sharer of the University of Pennsylvania.
Researchers believe the queen, whose name is not known, was buried in the fifth century A.D.

Some of the fabrics found within her tomb have thread counts of over 80 weft yarns per inch, said Margaret Ordonez, a textile expert at the University of Rhode Island who studied the cloth.
"This is in the range of the clothing that we wear," she said. "This is a higher thread count than your jeans." Some of the fragments contained as many as 25 layers of fabric, stacked atop
one another and fused together over time. "What's surprising is the fragments still exist," Ordonez said. "We're talking about a humid climate, and to have fragments of fabric exist
in the tomb for that long is just amazing."

The fabrics were made of various plant materials, including cotton, grasses, leaves, and tree bark. Some of the fragments retained hints of glorious hues, including a bright red made from cinnabar and a deep black, possibly created using iron.

William Saturno is a Maya expert at Boston University and a National Geographic Society grantee (National Geographic News is a division of the National Geographic Society). He said the fabric's sophistication is not surprising considering the attire worn by figures in Maya paintings. "We finally get to look at the very fabrics themselves rather than just the
images of them in art."


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