You can trace the development of dyes with the development of civilization. The earliest source of colors were the ochres and clays. Humans went from hunter-gatherers to farmers and with that the domestication of animals, the cultivation of fiber crops such as linen, cotton and hemp and the advancement of the skills of spinning and weaving. The development of more complex dye procedures depended on the development of the technical skill of working with metal and from that, the development of metal salts needed for mordanting. There is much speculation as to how the use of dyes was developed, especially with the blue bearing plants such as indigo. Blue was also one of the first colors on cloth, but how did early humans figure out the complex chemistry needed for a strong, light, fast blue that has lasted for centuries?
Over the next year I will be adding blog entries talking about the various dyes. I'll try not to bore you with too many dates, I don't want this to be a “history lesson,” but something that will cause you to say, “Hmm, I didn't know that!”
I find it fascinating, and I hope that you do also! I will also list the sources I use.