Without a protective atmosphere, space-exposed surfaces of airless Solar System bodies gradually experience an alteration in composition, structure and optical properties through a collective process called space weathering. The return of samples from near-Earth asteroid (162173) Ryugu by Hayabusa2 provides the first opportunity for laboratory study of space-weathering signatures on the most abundant type of inner solar system body: a C-type asteroid, composed of materials largely unchanged since the formation of the Solar System. Weathered Ryugu grains show areas of surface amorphization and partial melting of phyllosilicates, in which reduction from Fe3+ to Fe2+ and dehydration developed. Space weathering probably contributed to dehydration by dehydroxylation of Ryugu surface phyllosilicates that had already lost interlayer water molecules and to weakening of the 2.7 µm hydroxyl (–OH) band in reflectance spectra. For C-type asteroids in general, this indicates that a weak 2.7 µm band can signify space-weathering-induced surface dehydration, rather than bulk volatile loss.