Conserving Vulture Peak

Liquid Chromatography

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Scientist, Dr Diego Tamburini analyses the dyes used to colour the fibres of the Vulture Peak embroidery.

He uses a technique known as Liquid Chromatography Mass Spectrometry to find out what was used to colour the embroidery threads.

The embroidery dates from China’s Tang dynasty (AD 618–907). It depicts the Buddha preaching at Vulture Peak – in Buddhist tradition a favourite retreat of the Buddha and his disciples, located in what is now north-east India.

It was discovered by archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943) who, while exploring the many caves at Dunhuang, discovered a walled up cave. Behind this wall was a library full of manuscripts paintings and textiles, including this astonishing embroidery.

The tapestry is part of a collection donated to the British Museum by the archaeologist Sir Aurel Stein (1862–1943).

You can find more information in the collection online.


As conservators of organic artefacts we work on a wide variety of objects from the Museum’s archaeological, historic and contemporary collections. The types of objects we are regularly working on range therefore from basketry, bark cloths, wooden sculptures, textiles, Asian lacquered objects, paintings on canvas and wooden substrates but also human and animal remains, just to name a few.