Textile Society of America


Date of this Version



Crosscurrents: Land, Labor, and the Port. Textile Society of America's 15th Biennial Symposium. Savannah. GA. October 19-23. 2016.


Copyright 2016 by Sophie Desrosiers and Corinne Debaine-Francfort


In 1993 and 1994, the Sino-French archeological mission in Xinjiang led by Abdurassul Idriss and Corinne Debaine-Francfort,1 excavated the site at Karadong in the heart of the Takalamakan desert, on a former delta of the Keriya River, whose headwaters are in the Kunlun Mountains at the Tibetan border, and which vanishes in the desert sands. At one time, it continued north all the way to the Tarim River, thus forming a communication link with the Kucha region. Older deltas visible on satellite images have been explored and two related archeological sites have been consecutively excavated to the northwest of Karadong: an Iron Age site, Djoumboulak Koum, and a Bronze Age site, the so-called Northern Cemetery (fig. 1).2 Textiles were found on both sites, and especially at Djoumboulak Koum, where several cemeteries as well as a ‘city’, ringed by a thick rampart, revealed the types of woolen fabrics local people valued a few centuries before Karadong. These discoveries have provided important parallels for the interpretation of the textile fragments discovered in the ruins of Karadong dwellings, and in particular, in shedding light on their relationships with regions near and far.

Our presentation is divided in three parts. Firstly, we will examine the archeological and historical context of Karadong in order to understand who was living there, and what kinds of relationships these people had with the outside world. Secondly, we shall describe the salient features of the forty-nine small and poorly preserved textile fragments found there. Thirdly, we will show how these textiles—quite sober in appearance—substantiate surprising evidence of the circulation of textiles and ideas over great distances.