Four prehistoric pottery fragments found in Eastern Europe bear imprints that have made a big impression on archaeologists. The clay shards display the outlines of the world's oldest known examples of woven material, pressed into the clay while it was still wet, around 27,000 years ago.
The sophisticated twining methods apparent in the impressions attest that weaving had reached an advanced state much earlier than most researchers have assumed, according to a study presented in Minneapolis this week at the annual meeting of the Society for American Archaeology.
"We never anticipated that there was a fiber technology so long ago," says Olga Soffer of the University of Illinois at Urbana- Champaign. "These specimens provide positive evidence for the production of textiles or basketry in at least one part of Europe a minimum of 7,000 to 10,000 years earlier than documented anywhere else."
Soffer first noticed the imprints in 1991, while conducting an analysis of approximately 6,000 pottery fragments from Pavlov I, a site in the Czech Republic. Bohuslav Klima of the Czech Academy of Sciences in Brno directed excavations at Pavlov I from 1952 to 1972. Now retired from his academic position, Klima, in collaboration with other scientists, has initiated investigations of numerous types of artifacts from the site.
Soffer turned to ancient textile specialist James M. Adovasio of Mercyhurst College in Erie, Pa., for a detailed examination of the unusual pottery discoveries, which have been radiocarbon-dated to between 26,980 and 24,870 years old. …