Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Textiles of the Ancient World

Credit: Dailymail.UK

Textile technology is at least 77,000 years old. The world's oldest known mattress is an example. It was unearthed in South Africa at the Sibudu Cave site in KwaZulu-Natal. The mattress consists of layers of reeds and rushes. This mattress was discovered at the bottom of a pile of bedding made from compacted grasses and leafy plants. The bedding had accumulated over a period of 39,000 years, with the oldest mats dating to 77,000 years ago. (Read more here.)

Because fibers disintegrate, it is difficult to find intact samples of human-fabricated textiles from archaic times. Often the evidence of textiles is indicated by impressions left in burned clay. The earliest evidence of string appears about 40,000 years ago. Twined fibers were used to string beads.

Early cloth was made with string. The earliest known string-making was at the Ohalo II site in Galilee in Israel. There three fragments of twisted and plied plant fibers were discovered that date to 19,000 years ago.

Archaeologists have found 35,000-year-old flax fibers (Linum usitatissimum) at the Dzudzuana rockshelter in the former Soviet state of Georgia. The flax fibers had been twisted, cut and dyed a range of colors.

Archaic populations made foot coverings of animals hides. Bodies buried about 27,000 years ago at the Sunghir Upper Paleolithic sites in Russia appear to have had foot protection. A moccasin-type shoe was discovered at the Areni-1 Cave in Armenia that dates to 5500 years ago.

Sandals dating to between 12,000 and 6500 years have been found at several sites in the American southwest.

Silk proteins were found in 8500-year-old tombs at Jiahu in the Henan Province in central China. Silk was produced in significant amounts during the Longshan period in China (BC 3500-2000). Silk is made by extracting fibers from the cocoons of silkworms.

Evidence of silk has been found at ancient sites such as Palmyra in the Syrian Desert and in Egyptian tombs. Silk fibers were found in the hair of an Egyptian female mummy found in Thebes. The mummy has been dated to the twenty-first dynasty (c.1069-945 B.C.).

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