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China Finds Oldest Gelatin Adhesive

Posted By ASC, Friday, December 12, 2014
Updated: Thursday, May 07, 2015

Scientists have found the oldest known man-made adhesive in a tomb in the northwest Xinjiang region of China. For thousands of years, adhesives have been used to make more sophisticated tools and ornaments. The adhesive in Xinjiang is a translucent, yellow, gelatin-based glue that was used to make a wooden staff with inlayed bone carvings. It is estimated to be 3,500-years-old. Typically, early adhesives broke down long before burial sites were discovered. However, the tombs in Xinjiang’s Taklamakan Desert are known for dry conditions and well-preserved mummies, which give unique opportunities to learn about ancient societies and technology. For example, the glue in the staff has been identified as a gelatin made from cattle products. It is simultaneously the earliest evidence of adhesive use, and the earliest evidence of gelatin production in China.

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