News: World’s Oldest Needle Found in Siberian Cave

Although this news isn’t current (the needle was discovered last summer), it will still be of interest to anyone who didn’t read about the discovery at the time.

The 7 centimetre (2 3/4 inch) needle was made and used by our long extinct Denisovan ancestors, a recently-discovered hominin species or subspecies.

Scientists found the sewing implement – complete with a hole for thread – during the annual summer archaeological dig at a cave in the Altai Mountains widely believed to hold the secrets of human origins. It appears to be still usable after 50,000 years.

Professor Mikhail Shunkov, head of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography in Novosibirsk, said: ‘It is the most unique find of this season, which can even be called sensational. It is a needle made of bone. As of today it is the most ancient needle in the word. It is about 50,000 years old.’

The needle is seen as providing proof that the long-gone Denisovans – named after the cave – were more sophisticated than previously believed. It predates by some 10,000 years an intricate modern-looking piece of polished jewellery made of chlorite by the Denisovans.

To read about the discovery in full, visit the website of the Siberian Times.

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News: Spring-cleaning India’s Most Magnificent Tent

For those of you who might have missed it, Asian textiles got into the news last month when a royal Rajasthani tent was cleaned for the first time in over three hundred years. A totally unique textile, made in imperial workshops from red silk velvet and gold, unfurled it stands four metres high – as high as a London double-decker bus. It’s known as the Lal Dera, or the Shahi Lal Dera – the Royal Red Tent, and is believed to have been the home of Shah Jahan, the Mughal emperor who built the Taj Mahal.

To read the article in full, visit the BBC website.

News: SADACC Trust Project – India and Pakistan Remembered

sadacc-india-and-pakistan-remembered

The SADACC Trust (based in Norwich, UK) is seeking participants to be interviewed for the India and Pakistan Remembered 2017 project.

To coincide with the 70th anniversary of India and Pakistan’s independence, the SADACC Trust is embarking on an exciting oral history project. We will be interviewing people who have lived in India or Pakistan, or whose relatives lived there in the past.

We want to hear about your memories or family stories of life in India and Pakistan (whether recent or centuries ago). In particular, we are interested in learning about objects, heirlooms or keepsakes from the subcontinent that are still attached to, or seem to contain these memories. In discovering how objects help to relate people to events in the past, we hope to better understand what memories the objects in The South Asia Collection might evoke in visitors to the museum.

The India and Pakistan Remembered 2017 project will create an archive of recorded interviews about people’s memories (whether their own or stories they have inherited) of life in India and Pakistan. The interviews will also contribute to an exhibition – ‘India and Pakistan Remembered’ – and accompanying publications.

If you are interested or would like more information, please contact our Collection Curator Ben Cartwright at info@sadacc.co.uk or phone 01603 663890.

Participants are encouraged to bring objects (or photographs of those objects) which evoke stories of life in either India or Pakistan to interview sessions. We hope to explore how these objects spark memories of certain people, places and events in the past.

By agreeing to be involved, you will be a unique voice contributing to a better understanding of the history of India and Pakistan through lived experiences.

Please circulate this message to anyone you feel would be interested in being interviewed.

News: OATG is on Facebook!

Facebook Page 21.07.16

Oxford Asian Textile Group now has a Facebook page! Visit it at https://www.facebook.com/OxfordAsianTextileGroup/. If you use Facebook, this is a great way to stay informed about OATG’s news and events, and connect with other Asian textile-related groups and like-minded people – just ‘like’ our page, and you’ll be kept up to date.

I look forward to seeing you there!

News: Archaeologists Find Ancient Mummy Approximately 1,500 Years Old in Mongolia

Siberian Times - Ancient Mongolian Mummy

Remains of a suspected female of Turkik origin have been found at an altitude of 2,803 metres in the Altai Mountains.

The ancient human remains are wrapped in felt. The excavation is being hailed as the first complete Turkik burial found in Central Asia. B. Sukhbaatar, researcher at Khovd Museum, said: ‘This person was not from elite, and we believe it was likely a woman, because there is no bow in the tomb. Now we are carefully unwrapping the body and once this is complete the specialists will be able to say more precisely about the gender.’

In the mummy’s grave archaeologists found – alongside the human remains – a saddle, bridle, clay vase, wooden bowl, trough, iron kettle, the remains of an entire horse, and four different ‘Dool’ (Mongolian clothes). There were also pillows, a sheep’s head and felt travel bag in which were placed the whole back of a sheep, goat bones and a small leather bag for the cup.

Sukhbaatar said: ‘It is the first complete Turkik burial at least in Mongolia – and probably in all Central Asia. This is a very rare phenomenon. These finds show us the beliefs and rituals of Turkiks.’

To read the full article, visit the website of the Siberian Times.

News: Helmshore Mills Textile Museum to Close Next Month after LCC Cuts

Helmshore Mills Textile Museum

One of the last cotton mills in Lancashire – Helmshore Mills Textile Museum – will close its doors to the public at the end of next month. The museum is one of five to close as part of controversial cuts approved by Lancashire County Council (LCC) last week.

LCC has confirmed that the popular mill museum will shut by 1 April but has approved emergency funding to find alternative operators to take on the running of the museums and prevent them from falling into disrepair.

Helmshore councillor Brian Essex suggested the decision could be open to legal challenge. He said: ‘There has been a considerable campaign to keep it open as part of the heritage and community of Rossendale. I am sure there will be a large number of people across Rossendale who will be appalled to hear of its closure. Hopefully it can be kept open in some way, but this is a tremendous, momentous blow to the museum.’

For more information, visit the website of local newspaper, the Rossendale Free Press.

News: World’s Oldest Dress Found to Date Back 5,500 Years

National Geographic - Oldest Dress

An Egyptian garment has been unveiled as the world’s oldest dress after radiocarbon dating confirmed it was up to 5,500 years old.

The Tarkhan dress was sent to the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology at University College London in the early 1990s after being found in an Egyptian tomb. Left in a bundle with rags, it was only in 1977 when experts found it by chance.

Radiocarbon dating by the University of Oxford last year confirmed that the dress is between 5,100 and 5,500 years old.

For more information, visit the Independent website or the Petrie Museum website (which includes instructions on how to make your own Tarkhan dress!).

News: Battle to save Lawrence of Arabia’s Dagger and Robes for the Nation

Guardian - Lawrence of Arabia's robes

Lawrence of Arabia’s dashing white silk robes and a magnificent steel and silver dagger – presented to him after the capture of Aqaba – are at risk of being exported from the UK unless new buyers can be found. The culture minister, Ed Vaizey, placed temporary export bars on two of T.E. Lawrence’s most famous possessions on Tuesday.

They were sold at auction last year to overseas buyers and will be lost to Britain unless an individual or museum can match the asking price of £122,500 for the dagger and £12,500 for the robes.

Lawrence, an archaeologist and diplomat, became famous for his daring exploits as a military liaison officer during the 1916–18 Arab revolt. Vaizey called him ‘one of the most extraordinary figures of the twentieth century’. ‘These robes and dagger are absolutely iconic and a key part of his enduring image. It is important that these classic objects remain in the UK’, he said.

For more information, read the full Guardian article here.

News: Les musées des Tissus et des Arts décoratifs de Lyon threatened with closure

Les Musees des tissus et des arts decoratifs de Lyon

The Musée des tissus in Lyon is in a very difficult situation: last year, the French government decided to withdraw subsidies from the country’s Chambers of Commerce and Industry (we are talking here about more than 500 million euros). For the Chambre de Commerce de Lyon this meant that they could no longer support the textile museum, for which they have been responsible since 1854. It was hoped (and there have been negotiations to that end) that either the city of Lyon or the French Ministry of Culture would step in – but they are reluctant to take on the responsibility. If we cannot resolve this situation, the museum will be closed at the beginning of next year. (Please understand that this is an abbreviated version of what’s happening. For a detailed account, visit the link below.)

On Monday, a petition was launched that has been signed by more than 10,000 people so far. I have included a link to this petition below (the English text will become visible if you click ‘Read more’ at the end of the French introduction), and the museum and its community would be very grateful if you could sign it and spread the news among your friends and colleagues.

The Musée des tissus de Lyon is one of the most important, if not the most important collection of textiles in the world; it is a treasure trove, a mine of inspiration, a centre for research and the home of CIETA (Centre International d’Etude des Textiles Anciens) – please help us save it!

For more information, please visit the website of La Tribune de l’Art (website in French).

To sign the petition, visit the Change.org petition page here.

News: Re-opening of the V&A’s Refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art

V&A - Toshiba Gallery re-opening

The V&A’s refurbished Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art will re-open on Wednesday 4 November 2015.

The gallery refresh is part of the V&A’s ongoing FuturePlan scheme of restoration and redesign to create beautiful and contemporary new settings for the museum’s outstanding collections. Originally opened in December 1986, the Toshiba Gallery of Japanese Art was the first major gallery of Japanese art in the UK. It was designed to show highlights of the V&A’s internationally important collection of Japanese art and design, which the museum has built up since it was founded in 1852. The refurbished gallery will exhibit around 550 works in a newly curated series of displays that will include 30 or more recent acquisitions. A group of kimono from the 1920s–1930s are among the recent acquisitions that will be shown in the refurbished Toshiba Gallery.

The gallery will illustrate the extraordinary craftsmanship and artistic creativity of Japan from the sixth century to the present day through displays of swords and armour, lacquer, ceramics, cloisonné enamels, textiles and dress, inrō and netsuke, paintings, prints and illustrated books. The lighting, graphics and display cases have been updated and the gallery reconfigured to give space to modern and contemporary objects such as interior design, product design, electronics, photography, graphics and fashion – both high-end and kawaii street. An outfit from Issey Miyake’s 132 5. range will be shown, which employs the concept of origami to create a piece of womenswear out of a single piece of fabric, as well as a pair of gravity-defying shoes by the brilliantly creative Noritaka Tatehana.

The history and traditions of Japan are explored in the Toshiba Gallery, as well as how they resonate in contemporary society, including themes such as religion and ritual, arts of the samurai, tea drinking, theatre and performance, fashionable dress, dress accessories, lacquer and elegant pursuits, ukiyo-e and the graphic arts, engagement with the West, Imperial Japan, folk craft and the modern and contemporary. The displays will be complemented by films about inrō, putting on a kimono and obi, how to make a sword fitting and how to put on a suit of armour.

Treasures of the gallery include the lavishly decorated Mazarin Chest, made in Kyoto around 1640, which is one of the finest pieces of Japanese export lacquer to have survived from this time; a wonderfully preserved late seventeenth-century six-fold screen depicting the Nakamura-za Kabuki theatre in Edo (Tokyo); a set of twelve inrō for the twelve months of the year by the renowned nineteenth-century lacquer artist Shibata Zeshin; utensils for the tea ceremony including several rare and important examples of ceramics; and a major group of extremely high quality cloisonné enamels from the period 1880 to 1910.

Admission to the Toshiba Gallery (Room 45) is free.

For more information, visit the website of the Victoria and Albert Museum, London.