Fiber technology first emerged in hunter-gatherer societies as early as 32,000 years ago.
In the Stone Age, advances in fiber technology globalized people not communication. As early as 32,000 years ago, hunter-gatherers figured out how to transform wild flax fibers into cords suitable for sewing clothes, weaving baskets and attaching stone tools to handles, researchers report in the Sept. 11 Science.
Their excavations at a western Asian cave have yielded the oldest known fragments of twine.
Following the ancient invention of cord-making techniques, human groups were able to create warm, durable clothes and other gear needed for trekking into Siberia and across a now-submerged land bridge to North America, proposes Harvard University archaeologist Ofer Bar-Yosef, a coauthor of the new study.
"The invention of cordage was an extremely important technological event," Bar-Yosef says.
In 2007 and 2008, a team including Bar-Yosef and led by paleobotanist Eliso Kvavadze of the Georgian National Museum in Tbilisi collected soil samples from Georgia's Dzudzuana Cave containing more than 1,000 wild flax fibers. Radiocarbon measurements of animal bones and charred wood in the cave's sediment pointed to periods of human activity from 32,000 to 26,000 years ago, 23,000 to 19,000 years ago and 13,000 to 11,000 years ago. These periods fell within a Stone Age phase called the Upper Paleolithic, during which cave painting and other cultural activities flourished.