Saturday, September 19, 2009

Oldest Manmade Fibers Found in Cave

A team of archaeologists and paleobiologists has discovered flax fibers that are more than 34,000 years old, making them the oldest fibers known to have been used by humans. They were found during excavation of a cave in the Republic of Georgia.

The flax could have been used to make linen and thread, 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.

"This was a critical invention for early humans. They might have used this fiber to create parts of clothing, ropes, or baskets ~ for items that were mainly used for domestic activities," says Ofer Bar-Yosef, one of the team leaders. "We know that this is wild flax that grew in the vicinity of the cave and was exploited intensively or extensively by modern humans."

Some of the fibers were twisted, indicating they were used to make ropes or strings. Others had been dyed.

Today, these fibers are not visible to the eye, because the garments and items sewed together with the flax have long ago disintegrated. They were discovered by microscopic examination of samples of clay retrieved from different layers of the cave.

Click here for the Harvard University press release.

No comments: