Perished Material - Vanished People Understanding variation in Upper Palaeolithic/Mesolithic Textile Technologies

University essay from Lunds universitet/Institutionen för arkeologi och antikens historia

Abstract: The pilot project which is reported here was triggered by the author’s curiosity of the origin and development of basic textile technologies in early Palaeolithic and Mesolithic hunter-gatherer groups. The research question for the study is: Can comparisons of textile artefacts over a large range of areas and time spans tell us something about the early manufacture, use and development of textiles technologies? The methodology chosen for the study is to make a large scale survey of textile artefacts, primarily from excavations in Northern and Central Europe/Eurasia during three very different climate periods: the last interglacial period of Pleistocene, the latest glacial maximum and the first part of Holocene, the present interglacial period– the timespan for the study begins ca. 30 000 BP to ca. 6 000 BP. In total, textile findings from 17 excavation sites are described as they were reported either by excavators or by archaeologists specialized in prehistoric textile analysis. The analysis shows that there is evidence for quite an advanced weaving technology in the earliest phase (30 000–22 000 BP), but then very little textile remains in Europe during the next glacial phase (22 000–10 000 BP). And again, during the latest phase (11 000–6 000 BP), more evidence of both clothing and a variety of textile items is shown in the assemblage of artefacts. The issue of continuity of textile technological knowhow and skills between the three phases cannot be answered by the empirical approach of the study, but it can well be suspected that there is such a transfer in time between the different cultural groups.

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