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Upper Paleolithic Textiles from Dzudzuana Cave

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Dzudzuana Cave
An outside view of the Dzudzuana cave in Georgia

An outside view of the Dzudzuana cave in Georgia

Image © Science/AAAS

Dzudzuana Cave is located in the Republic of Georgia, just a handful of kilometers from the similarly dated Ortvale Klde rockshelter. The site has four Upper Paleolithic occupations, probably representing several brief seasonal occupations by early modern human hunter-gatherers. The oldest levels at the cave are dated between 26,000-32,000 RCYBP, which calibrates to between 31,000-36,000 years cal BP. The flax fibers were identified in clay samples taken from all four UP levels, and twisted and colored fibers are known from all four levels as well.

Flax Fibers from Dzudzuana Cave

  • Unit A: ~5,000-6,300 RCYBP, 30 flax fibers, five dyed
  • Unit B: ~11,000-13,000 RCYBP: 48 flax fibers, three dyed (one black, two turquoise)
  • Unit C: ~19,000-23,000 RCYBP: 787 flax fibers, 18 spun, one knotted, 38 dyed (black, gray, turquoise and one pink)
  • Unit D: ~26,000-32,000 RCYBP: 488 flax fibers, including 13 spun, 58 dyed (turquoise and gray to black), several exhibited cutting; some of the fibers are 200 mm long, others broken into shorter segments

The flax fibers are interpreted by the archaeologists as representing the production of intentionally colored cloth, perhaps clothing. Additional data supporting their interpretation includes bits of tur (mountain goat) fur and small insect fragments often associated with clothing.

Sources and Further Information

Hurcombe, Linda 2008 Organics from inorganics: using experimental archaeology as a research tool for studying perishable material culture. World Archaeology 40(1):83–115.

Kvavadze, Eliso, et al. 2009 30,000-Year-Old Wild Flax Fibers. Science 325:1359.

Lupo, Karen D. and Dave N. Schmitt 2002 Upper Paleolithic Net-Hunting, Small Prey Exploitation, and Women’s Work Effort: A View From the Ethnographic and Ethnoarchaeological Record of the Congo Basin. Journal of Archaeological Method and Theory 9(2):147-179.

Minturn, Leigh 1996 The Economic Importance and Technological Complexity of Hand-Spinning and Hand-Weaving. Cross-Cultural Research 30:330-351.

Soffer, Olga 2004 Recovering Perishable Technologies through Use Wear on Tools: Preliminary Evidence for Upper Paleolithic Weaving and Net Making. Current Anthropology 45(3):407-424.

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