Archive for September 11th, 2009

The oldest linen in the world

Friday, September 11th, 2009

Archaeologists excavating a cave in the Republic of Georgia have found the oldest known fibers used by human beings. They’re flax fibers and they’re 34,000 years old.

The flax, which would have been collected from the wild and not farmed, could have been used to make linen and thread, the researchers say. The cloth and thread would then have been used to fashion garments for warmth, sew leather pieces, make cloths, or tie together packs that might have aided the mobility of our ancient ancestors from one camp to another.

An abundance of wild flax grew in the area around the cave, so would have been able to fashion any number of goods. Some of the fibers found were twisted together, suggest they were used as string or rope. Some of them were even dyed.

These are tiny fragments we’re talking about, not visible to the naked eye. They were found in samples of the clay from the cave floor when paleobiologists were looking at it under a microscope searching for tree pollen.

Bar-Yosef and his team used radiocarbon dating to date the layers of the cave as they dug the site, revealing the age of the clay samples in which the fibers were found. Flax fibers were also found in the layers that dated to about 21,000 and 13,000 years ago.

So people in that cave were making linen for tens of thousands of years, at least.

Twisted and dyed flax fibers, ca. 34,000 years ago

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