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China finds oldest gelatine adhesive

URUMQI, Nov. 28 (Xinjiang) -- Scientists have identified China's oldest adhesive, in the form of gelatine, from a 3,500-year-old ritual staff in a tomb complex known for its well-preserved mummies in Xinjiang, northwest China.

The translucent yellow adhesive was found on a wooden staff inlaid with bone sculpture in the Xiaohe Cemetery in Taklamakan Desert, said Yang Yimin, associate professor with the Chinese Academy of Sciences.

Scientific analysis later identified the adhesive as gelatine made from cattle. It was also the earliest known evidence of gelatine use in China, Yang said.

Gelatine can be manufactured by cooking animal bones, skins and tendons and has been commonly used as glue. Prior to the discovery, its use in China dates back to the Han Dynasty (202 BC - 220 AD).

Experts said China's ancient glue is prone to decomposition, posing difficulties for conducting analysis, but the dry climate in Xiaohe Cemetery has helped preserve the substance.

The Xiaohe cemetery, 175 km west of the ancient city of Loulan, was first explored by Folke Bergman, a Swedish archaeologist in 1934. The massive burial site, with over 300 graves, is best known for its many mummies preserved in ship-shaped coffins.

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