- Museum number
These are three rectangular fragments of silk damask further patterned by the clamp-resist dyeing technique, showing only parts of a very large design. In a roundel of intertwining bands is a crouching griffin with its spotted back and tail in palmette style. Outside of the roundels is another griffin (probably), indicated by a spotted leg, a claw and a palmette tail. Above the roundel are two clouds. The griffin’s head, wings and tail, as well as the roundel, are in blue while a yellowish brown is used for the other parts. The textile is a damask on 1/1 plain weave, with a tiny diamond pattern which repeats 1 cm in the warp and 0.4 cm in the weft direction.
The griffin is a legendary creature with the body of a lion and the head and wings of an eagle, thought to embody power and majesty. Legend tells that the creatures would roam the Central Asian steppes where they guarded gold and precious stones from strangers. The griffin motif was widely used along the Silk Road after Alexander’s conquests in the East, but it did not appear on silk until the Tang dynasty.
Similar textiles include a fragment with an intact griffin’s tail excavated in Mochevaya Balka, Russia; and a damask excavated at Dulan, Qinghai.
The fragment with the spotted leg, claw and tail is not part of the same roundel as the other two fragments, although it is possible they were once part of the same textile.
Warp: silk, untwisted, single, 52 ends/cm; Weft: silk, untwisted, 20 lats/cm. Weave structure: 2-2 patterning weave on 1/1 plain weave ground weave.
- Production date
Length: 33 centimetres
Width: 13 centimetres
- Not on display
- Acquisition date
- Acquisition notes
- The 1917-11-28 group (with MAS numbering) refers to objects from Stein's Second Central Asian Expedition, 1906-08. As the expedition was financed 3/ 5 by the Government of India and 2/5 by the British Museum, it was agreed that the finds from the expedition should be allocated in these proportions. All the finds were shipped to London for sorting, research and publication, and subsequent distribution. The distribution of the finds between London and India was determined by specialists, appointed by the Government of India (through the India Office, London) and the British Museum, who drew up lists of the objects for approval by both sides. The specialists included: Raphael Petrucci, under supervision of Dr E Denison Ross (nominated by India Office) and Laurence Binyon (British Museum) on paintings; Dr F W Thomas, Dr E Denison Ross (both nominated by India Office) and Dr L D Barnett (British Museum) on manuscripts and written documents; Dr E Denison Ross (nominated by India Office) and Laurence Binyon (British Museum) on archaeological/other finds. Although the lists were drawn up and approved in 1915, the Government of India asked the British Museum to look after the entire collection during the First World War, and those allocated to India were eventually shipped in 1919.
- Registration number
- Additional IDs
Miscellaneous number: Ch.00483 (Stein no.)