Fibre made from the long, soft hairs (lint) surrounding the seeds of the cotton plant (Gossypium). In the right climate (temperate to hot), cotton is easy to grow; it is also cheap to harvest and easily packed into compact bales for transport and export. Indigenous to India, the Sudan and Ethiopia, it was later grown in Egypt, China, western Central Asia, North America and elsewhere. Cotton is a very versatile fibre: used alone it can produce very fine, light and quite strong textiles (lawn and muslin), and used alone or in combination with other fibres it can make extremely durable and heavy fabrics (e.g. for use in bedspreads, rugs and carpets). It takes dyestuffs very well and can be painted or printed with designs. The first mention of cotton is in the Annals of Sennacherib of Assyria (reg 705–681 BC), although it became important there only after the introduction of Islam in the mid-7th century AD. It was imported into the Middle East and North Africa in the 1st century AD and from there was traded throughout Spain and gradually through the rest of Europe.
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