Silk Fragment

Project details

This silk remnant, no larger than a child’s fingernail, was found along with tiny twisted silver threads and silver spangles in the 1610 burial of Captain William West, a young kinsman of Lord De La Warr. The fabric and silver fringe were part of a captain’s sash, a clothing item used to denote military rank. The sash had been placed within West’s coffin between his left arm and ribs. Conservators removed the fragile object in a soil block because it was too fragile to excavate using conventional methods.

Different types of laboratory analysis helped to identify more about the object. Magnification revealed that the simple, plain fabric was woven with each weft yarn going over and under each warp yarn, and vice versa. X-ray Fluorescence (XRF) spectrometry identified the fabric as silk. Cornell University’s Biotechnology Resource Center undertook Micro CT (Computed Tomography) scanning, which provided detailed images of the 6 x 3 inch bundle of sash.