The human urge to paint the body with symbolic, warlike, or identifying colors may have been among the earliest impulses which led to the discovery of color‐yielding clays and plants. The dyeing of human clothing followed. Encounters, both warlike and peaceful, between groups then led to the identification of certain colors with specific regions or groups of producers, and exchanges began. This specialization and trade eliminated many of the poorer dyes of prehistoric times, which may have numbered many hundreds, and by the time recorded history took note of dyes only a relative few still saw widespread use.
Dye exchanges at first were very local. The major ones in ancient times were usually confined to the great areas of early culture and urbanization such as China, northern India, and the eastern Mediterranean. Later, trade in dyestuffs became more long distance, and, with European intrusions into Asia and invasion of the Americas, transoceanic and worldwide. This huge trade in...
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