Oldest silk fibres found at Limassol dig
Italian archaeologists have unearthed what is believed to be the oldest silk fibres to be found in the Mediterranean, at excavations carried out at Pyrgos-Mavroraki in the Limassol area.
Ms. Maria-Rosaria Belgiorno, the head of the archaeological mission of Rome’s National Research Institute said that, the fibres of silk found at Pyrgos, dates back to the second millennium BC and are similar to the silk found in the Greek island of Santorini. Specifically she said that “Rare fibres of silk, belonging to cocoons of Tortrix Viridens moths have been found in a vase at Pyrgow-Mavroraki, together with threats of cotton.” She added that the “extraordinary discovery” can be compared with the one made at Akrotiri-Thera in Santorini, where a mineralized cocoon has been found inside a vase from the 17th century BC and that both moths are endemic in the Mediterranean and belong to the Saturnides family.
The characteristic Aegean silk is later attested by Aristotle Aristophanes, Plinius and Ovidius and was well known in the Roman period as proved by the founding of a flock of Tortrix silk in the House of Polibio at Pompeii. Ms. Belgiorno said that some entomology scholars of the Entomological Institute of Rome are now studying the hypothesis that China learned the art from abroad, despite the common opinion that the technology of spinning silk was invented in China before the 2000 BC. She also noted that “Probably the technology of spinning silk of moths was discovered by another country, positioned between China and the Mediterranean as proved by the contemporary production of silk in the Mediterranean in 2nd millennium BC.”
According to Ms Belgiorno, the possibility to domesticate the Bombix mori facilitated China in becoming the first country in silk production, while in the Mediterranean the tradition was restricted to the Aegean islands, remaining in the background of their cultural tradition for thousands of years. She went on to say that the silk was one of many products uncovered at Pyrgos, including wine, perfumes, olive oil and ceramics, which show that site was an industrial complex and that Cyprus in antiquity era was already well progressed in technology. Finally, Ms. Belgiorno explained that under the microscope the fibres found at Pyrgos were mostly blue and green, but researchers of the University of Rome in September, plan to study the exact composition of the colour of the silk fibres found at Pyrgos.