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Did South Americans Wear Blue Jeans?
6,000-year-old fabric shows Peruvians were dyeing cloth with indigo long before the Egyptians (CCSS Level: Grade 6, Words: 492)
Sep 19, 2016 History
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This very old fabric may be the world's earliest example of the use of indigo-blue, a colour that has become one of the most popular in the world and is used to dye denim jeans. Check out the piece of cloth in the picture. It was woven and dyed 6,000 years ago by people living on the coast of Peru. If you look very closely you can just see faded darker lines in the material.

When the cloth was first found at a temple at Huaca Prieta, a very old ceremonial place in northern Peru, the researchers could not tell if it was dyed at all because it was so dirty. Then in 2011 some pieces of cloth were carefully cleaned and the darker lines showed up. It was not possible to tell how the cloth was dyed just by looking at it, but a chemist at the University College London was able work out that the blue in the fabrics was indigo. The color probably came from a plant that has been used to make blue dye all around the world.

What is so special is that indigo dye is actually quite hard to make. It was thought that the first uses of indigo were in ancient Egypt and China. But this find shows that indigo was used in Peru at least 6,000 years ago, and that makes it the oldest dyed cloth ever found. In fact it is 1,500 years older than Egyptian indigo cloth.

Many squares of cloth were found at the temple and the researchers think the pieces had been used to wrap up things, perhaps to leave at the temple. Then the pieces of cloth were left behind too.

What is so interesting is that indigo dye is quite hard to make. The blue chemical in indigo does not dissolve in water. Instead, the leaves of the indigo plant are fermented, which turns the dye into another chemical that does dissolve in water, but is not blue. Then the clothes are dipped in the water with the indigo molecule. When the clothes are taken out the chemical mixes with oxygen in the air, and that's when it turns blue.

That means people living in Peru over 6,000 years ago knew how to turn plant fibers into thread, then weave that thread into cloth, and also use a difficult dye method to stain the cloth into a beautiful blue colour.

The blue dye first used in South America is one of the most valuable and widely used dyes in the world. Jeans were first made only in 1871 by the now-famous Levi Strauss and Co. They were worn by cowboys and miners, and they were always indigo coloured. By the 1950's jeans had become very popular with young people and even though styles of jeans change, the material used to make them has stayed the same. Indigo is probably the most popular fabric colour in the world.

What was so surprising about ancient Peruvians using indigo dye?
It was very long ago that they used indigo
Indigo doesn't usually grow in South America
Indigo is such a difficult dye to make and use
People in ancient Peru must have worn jeans
Around how old is Egyptian indigo dyed cloth?
1,500 years
4,500 years
6,000 years
It is not known
What is needed to turn the indigo molecule blue?
oxygen
water
fermenting
drying
Indigo is…
old and easy to make
valuable and widely used
found in only a few places
a dye invented by Levi Strauss
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ac-tual

real, in fact


adj.实际

an-cient

very old


adj.古老

an-oth-er

in addition to


pn.另一个

ce-re-mo-ni-al

to do with religion or power / the system of rules for a formal occasion


adj.仪式

coast

the edge of the land where it meets the sea


n.岸边

cow-boys

men who look after cattle or cows


n.牛仔

cult

something really popular amongst a group of people


n.礼拜    

dif-fi-cult

hard, not easy


adj.困难

dis-solve

a solid that becomes part of a liquid


v.溶解

dyed

colour added to a fibre or fabric


v.染色

fab-ric

cloth made by weaving or knitting fibres


n.布

fa-ded

grown faint and losing its colour


adj.褪色

fa-mous  

well known


adj.著名

fer-men-ted

when a vegetable is changed into alcohol


v.发酵

mi-ner

a person who works in a mine


n.矿工

mi-ners

people who work in a mine


n.矿工

mo-le-cule

the smallest part of a chemical


n.分子

ol-dest

been around for the longest time


adj.最老的

re-search

looking for knowledge


v.调研

re-search-er

person who searches for knowledge


n.研究员

solve

find an answer

 


v.解决

spe-cial

better or greater than usual


adj.特别

va-lua-ble

worth a lot of money


adj.有价值/宝贵

wo-ven

fabric made by crossing strands of fibre


v.编织