The use of plants for fibres are regarded as second only to food in their usefulness. At a conservative estimate there are well over 2000 species with usable fibre; more than 1000 of which are known from America, 750 from the Philippines and over 350 from East Africa (Hill, 1952). Vegetable fibres have been used by man for cordage, clothing, basketry and matting since time immemorial, although archaeological evidence of their use by early man is often inadequately represented because they do not preserve well. Fortunately ice preserved the cloak of plaited, unspecified grass, etc. and other crude plant fibre accessories worn by the Neolithic ‘Iceman’ of ca. 3300–3200 BC from the Hauslabjoch in the Austrian Alps. The more sophisticated use of flax, whose processing involved retting, was also known to Neolithic man. In Britain impressions of flax seeds in Neolithic pottery were found at Windmill Hill, Wiltshire, but the earliest preserved archaeological evidence of flax fibre are from Jutish and Saxon sites ca. 5th century AD (Appleyard and Wildman, 1969; Renfrew, 1973; Spindler, 1994).
KeywordsClay Starch Dust Milling Caustic Soda
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