“A STITCH IN TIME”
THE FIRST NEEDLES AND SEWING
25,000 years ago
|Three views of a flat bone sewing needle found in Haute-Garonne, France, and dated to about 17,000-10,000 years ago.
Credit: Photo by Didier Descouens, courtesy of Wikipedia.
Around 25,000 years ago, the archaeological record first documents perforated needles made in bone or antler. This clearly indicates a sewing technology and suggests much more sophisticated stitched clothing than earlier human groups. Although Neandertals and perhaps even Homo heidelbergensis probably had crude forms of clothing in the form of hides possibly laced by leather thongs, human figurines from the Upper Palaeolithic show individuals with various forms of headgear, clothing, and even hooded parkas. Among modern hunter-gatherers, clothing can range from simple loincloths in tropical areas to sophisticated parkas and boots in Arctic areas.
At about the same time, there is evidence of woven textiles in the form of fabric impressions on fired pieces of clay at the site of Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. In addition to animal hides, which likely had been in use as garments prior to this, such fiber textiles could have been stitched together to make clothing by this time. Stitched clothing indicates much more sophisticated clothing and a strong vegetable or sinew thread.
|This display case shows various types of tools made from bone, including needles, awls, and soft hammers.
Credit: Courtesy of Wikipedia.
HOW DO WE KNOW?
The evidence of sewing comes in the form of perforated bone and ivory needles from the Upper Palaeolithic. There are several figurines from this period that appear to show humans wearing clothing, including a skirt or apron, an apparently woven headdress, and a parka.
WHY SHOULD I CARE?
Well-made clothing is an adaptation that is especially important in colder climates. Along with fire and hut structures, clothing ensured the survival of the ancestors of modern humans as they survived the Ice Age and spread to harsher environments.
This webpage, referenced for Events 51 and 54, also has good information about threads and needles.
This webpage has an outline of the history of sewing.
This webpage discusses the history of sewing tools.