The entrance to the Dzudzunana Cave in Georgia, where the flax fibers were discovered. Photo: Science / AAAS
Reading aloud Scientists in Georgia have found 34, 000-year-old remnants of flax fiber used by humans to make clothing or everyday items. The use of plant fibers by humans is therefore about 6, 000 years older than previously thought. The scientists had actually searched for the remains of pollen in the Stone Age sites and had discovered the remains of the flax only by chance during microscopic examinations. The linen fibers came from wild plants that people gathered around them. "The use of fibers was a decisive step. They could have been used for parts of garments, ropes, baskets or for the production of commodities, "explains archaeologist Bar-Yosef. Fibrous articles provided a survival advantage to those who lived in today's Georgia 34, 000 years ago in inhospitable living conditions. The hunters and gatherers had many uses for the plant fibers. They were thus able to protect themselves against the cold or manufacture transport aids for objects. Apparently, people even stained the fibers: some showed traces of pigments derived from roots or other parts of plants. People apparently liked it colorfully: the researchers found yellow, red, blue, purple, black, brown, green and khaki-colored fibers.

Most of the fibers and objects made from them have fallen victim to degradation processes and are no longer visible to the naked eye. The fibers were either used in raw form or twisted together to make ropes. The researchers were astonished by their age, as they have previously assumed that fiber use is at most 28, 000 years old, according to findings from the Czech Republic. "The age of the fibers was a big surprise, " says Bar-Yosef. By isotope analysis, his team was able to date the age of the fibers. With this method, based on the radioactive decay of carbon atoms, can it be determined exactly when a plant has grown? or, as in the case of flax fiber, when people reaped and used them for their purposes.

The original purpose of the study was originally different: the scientists wanted to reconstruct vegetation and temperature changes over the past few thousand years by doing pollen studies on the soil. In the process, structures of the flax fibers came under the lens.

Ofer Bar-Yosef (Harvard University in Cambridge): Science (Vol 325, p. 1359). ddp / - Martina Bisculm advertisement


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