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The Stein Collection(s) consist of the items that Stein purchased or excavated during his first three expeditions, as the fourth expedition was cut short and all finds confiscated by the Chinese authorities. These materials are currently held at:

A significant number of pieces are from Cave 17, also known as the ‘Library Cave’, at the Mogao Caves, near Dunhuang. Notable items include the printed copy of the Diamond Sutra dated to 868 (Or.8210/P.2), and the 8th-century embroidery that is nearly two and a half metres in height. Many artefacts were also recovered from other sites located in the present-day provinces of Xinjiang, Gansu and Inner Mongolia.

Marc Aurel Stein also carried out geographical surveys and documented his travels through photography. His negatives, lantern slides and photographs are now kept for the most part at the British Library, the Library of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences and the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland. They cover a wide range of subject matters including excavations, architecture, panoramic landscapes and ethnography.

Some of Stein’s papers and correspondence are in the British Museum Central Archives. His diaries and archives are held at the Bodleian Library, in Oxford.

Highlights from the collection