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Ancient Fibers

October 8, 2009

Ancient flax fibers found in a cave suggests humans may have been turning the plant into clothing or rope as far back as 36,000 years ago.


Ancient cave fibers… I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

The use of fibers from the flax plant to make clothing and rope was a huge technological leap forward for early humans. Now a team of researchers has discovered ancient flax fibers dating as far back as 36,000 years in a cave in the Republic of Georgia. Archaeologist Ofer Bar-Josef of Harvard University says his paleobotanist colleague Eliso Kvavadze was looking at ancient pollen grains through a microscope to identify the kind of plants ancient cave-dwelling humans might have been consuming.

OFER BAR-JOSEF (Harvard University):
As an accident, and this came as a surprise, on the same glass slides that the pollen grains are mounted, she also found something else. Fibers of flax.

He says there is evidence that the fibers were intentionally dyed different colors, possibly for use as textiles. I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.