The project “Silk Road Fashion” seeks to open a dialogue with 3000-year old clothing once worn in eastern central Asia
  • Fur coat from Hami, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, P.R. China.
  • Chinese scientists at work.
  • German and Chinese scientists analyse a fur coat from Hami, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, P.R. China.
  • Short shirt from Niya, Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region, P.R. China.

Interdisciplinary Sino-German research project decodes the “Language of Clothes”

“Clothes make the Man” – this saying is valid as much today as it was 3000 years ago, because, like a second skin, clothes envelop the human body and provide a method of identification, even before a word is spoken. Communication via clothing is a means of expressing lifestyle and thought; it is an indicator of union or isolation. The project "Silk Road Fashion" devotes itself to this subject by investigating textiles, some 3000 years old, uncovered in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region of northwestern China. These extraordinary relics, which were naturally conserved due to the extremely arid climatic conditions prevailing in this region, are of great value in the investigation into the lives of the eastern central Asian population between 1000 BC and 300 AD.

The project analyses ca. 20 complete sets of apparel that comprise approximately 100 finds and object groups. When, where and why did people wear a particular form of clothing and how was that clothing produced? Does it reveal gender, age or status specific features? If so, which technical methods were used to create those differentiations and can they be characterized as specialized fashions belonging to individual groups? An interdisciplinary group of five German and two Chinese partners, jointly co-operating, examines these questions for the first time by combining archaeology, textile and leather research, dyestuff and cut analysis, ornament studies, paleopathology, vegetation and climate research - as well as linguistics. This process enables the reconstruction of technical knowledge, social structures, availability of resources and trading networks in Xinjiang and neighbouring regions.

The careful documentation of all working stages serves to develop teaching materials. The results will be published in both scientific and popular science papers as well as on the "Bridging Eurasia" website. Six dissertations will be written within the bounds of the project. A unique finale will be implemented in 2017 by organising an international fashion show to present to the audience these reconstructed clothes, worn by today’s models on a 21st century catwalk.

Project: "Silk Road Fashion: Clothes as a means of communication in the 1st millennium BC, Eastern Central Asia"

Project funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)

Projekt partners:

Free University Berlin

Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU)

State Office for Heritage Management and Archaeology Saxony-Anhalt, State Museum of Prehistory

Berlin-Brandenburg Academy of Sciences and Humanities

Project director: Prof. Dr. Mayke Wagner, German Archaeological Institute, Branch Office of the Eurasia Department in Beijing, Im Dol 2-6 Haus 2, 14195 Berlin (mayke [dot] wagner [at] dainst [dot] de)


The Project is part of the funding priority “Language of Objects” of the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF). More detailed information you can find at the website of the BMBF.

How to cite this page:

Bridging Eurasia , July 2015 ,
Accessed:22 February, 2018 - 01:44