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Making Materials from Flax Fibers (Circa 32,000 BCE – 28,000 BCE)


Wild flax fibers discovered in Dzudzuana Cave. (View Larger)

Eliso Kvavadze, Ofer Bar-Yosef and 5 co-authors published "30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers," Science 11 September 2009, 325, no. 5946, 1359; DOI: 10.1226/Science.1175404.

The abstract read:

"A unique finding of wild flax fibers from a series of Upper Paleolithic layers at Dzudzuana Cave, located in the foothills of the Caucasus, Georgia, indicates that prehistoric hunter-gatherers were making cords for hafting stone tools, weaving baskets, or sewing garments. Radiocarbon dates demonstrate that the cave was inhabited intermittently during several periods dated to 32 to 26 thousand years before the present (kyr B.P.), 23 to 19 kyr B.P., and 13 to 11 kyr B.P. Spun, dyed, and knotted flax fibers are common. Apparently, climatic fluctuations recorded in the cave’s deposits did not affect the growth of the plants because a certain level of humidity was sustained."

The flax fibers were discovered following examination of clay extracted from the cave deposits, leading the archaeologists to speculate that they were the remains of manufactured items which long since disintegrated:

"Some of the fibers were twisted, indicating they were used to make ropes or strings. Others had been dyed. Early humans used the plants in the area to color the fabric or threads made from the flax.

"The items created with these fibers increased early humans chances of survival and mobility in the harsh conditions of this hilly region. The flax fibers could have been used to sew hides together for clothing and shoes, to create the warmth necessary to endure cold weather. They might have also been used to make packs for carrying essentials, which would have increased and eased mobility, offering a great advantage to a hunter-gatherer society

" '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 Bar-Yosef.

" 'We know that this is wild flax that grew in the vicinity of the cave and was exploited intensively or extensively by modern humans.'

"The items created with these fibers increased early humans chances of survival and mobility in the harsh conditions of this hilly region. The flax fibers could have been used to sew hides together for clothing and shoes, to create the warmth necessary to endure cold weather. They might have also been used to make packs for carrying essentials, which would have increased and eased mobility, offering a great advantage to a hunter-gatherer society" (http://www.physorg.com/news171811682.html, accessed 09-12-2009).