Weaving a Time Warp

Every now and then I like to poke around on the web and look for news about prehistoric textiles. Because fibers decompose so quickly, they are very rare compared to prehistoric artifacts made of more durable stuff like stone, metal, or bone.

The oldest known textile fibers, microscopic ones from flax, came from Dzudzuana cave in the Republic of Georgia and date back more than 34,000 years. They were most likely not woven into cloth, but twisted into cord and rope for a variety of useful and decorative purposes. Fast forward almost 30,000 years to a point in time where humans were weaving threads into cloth on some sort of loom. Weaving yarn into fabric and using it for clothing was likely an innovation on the use of animal hides for warmth and probably followed from the weaving of fibers into baskets.

Several years ago I found a picture online of a pair of 3,000 year old wool pants, worn by a mummified man excavated from a tomb in the Tarim Basin in China. These pants have made the news again recently after a collaborative project by archaeologists, weavers, fashion designers, and others recreated the wool yarn, the woven cloth and the tailored pants designed for a horseback-riding nomadic warrior.

Thanks to the Folkwear Patterns newsletter for pointing me to this fascinating video. Links to other recent articles follow.