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World's oldest yarn hints that Neanderthals had basic math skills, Ars Technica

World's oldest yarn hints that Neanderthals had basic math skills, Ars Technica
    

      Not the kind of fiber Ars usually covers –

             

We have no proof Neanderthals told stories, but they definitely spun yarns.

      

      

A tiny scrap of thread stuck to the lower side of a stone flake offers a huge insight into Neanderthal life. The 6.2mm (0. inch) long bit of thread, spun from plant fibers, is the oldest example of the material ever found. According to uranium-series dating, the thread came from a layer of sediment between , and , years old at a Neanderthal site called Abri du Maras, in France. Its nearest rival for the “oldest string ever” title is a fragment of fiber from a , – year-old site in Israel.

When Kenyon College archaeologist Bruce Hardy and his colleagues looked at the thread under a microscope, the fibers turned out to be from bast: a fibrous layer of tissue just beneath the bark of a tree. These particular fibers had probably come from a conifer like pine, which would have been available nearby, according to pollen and charcoal traces from the site. An ancient craftsperson had twisted fibers together clockwise to make twisted bundles and then twisted three bundles together counterclockwise to make a three-ply cord. The cord was about 0.5mm thick (lace weight, if you’re a modern knitter or crocheter).

                                                  

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