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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.

Transcript

BOB HIRSHON (host):
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.

HIRSHON:
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.