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Prehistoric Human-Fashioned Fibers Found
A report in the journal Science announces the finding of the oldest known human–fashioned threads, left in a cave by the Caucasus mountains about 34,000 years ago. Cynthia Graber reports.
We humans love to decorate things. We wear flashy clothes, tie ribbons to suitcases and personalize the cases for our iPhones. And apparently we’ve had this tendency for a long, long time. More than thirty–four thousand years, to be exact.
Harvard researchers, together with Israeli and Georgian scientists, recently discovered the oldest known fibers used by humans, in a cave by the foothills of Georgia’s Caucasus mountains. The researchers weren’t searching for thread. They were looking for tree pollen samples that would reveal how environmental and temperature fluctuations influenced people’s lives. But they knew they’d found something historic when they saw the colored thread.
The fibers were made from wild flax. Some were twisted, indicating rope, while others were knotted. They might have been used to sew pieces of clothing to keep these ancient people warm. Or maybe they tied together packs that would allow the group to be more mobile. The strings could also have served as handles for stone tools.
The fibers were colored black, grey, turquoise and pink. So in addition to cave paintings, we now have evidence of cave fashion, the first tentative steps on the way to the cover of Vogue.