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  1. #1
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Default Thread and Cord; The History of Spinning

    What kinds of thread have been used for pearl stringing since the art of adornment began? When could our ancestors have starting using pearls as adornment and how?

    Much of the known history of spun fiber is relevant to pearls, whether the spun silk that is all the rage now, or the ropes that were used to aid in pearl diving, (of which we have a record going back to the 4th millenia BC in Bahrain).

    The thread on 'cave pearls' mentions shells as the earliest ornament found-dating back to 95,000,years ago. Here is that link

    Some younger shells dating from 75,000 years ago clearly show the marks from the thread used which were most likely 'drilled' with a sharp slice of flint.Now that we are on the topic, I would like to expand our studies a little to that of spun fibers, ie thread or cord. In a very quick google search, not looking past what shows up on the search page, I saw a claim that the oldest piece of fabric or textile found, was in Turkey and it is over 8,000 years old, yet it already showed "great skill".

    'Great skill' means the warp and woof thread were very finely and evenly spun. Spinning fine thread is much harder technically than spinning coarse plant fibers, but it uses the exact same technique: you have a bundle of fibers lined up in the same direction and you pull some partially out of the bundle and twist it. Then you keep pulling the twisted part to draw out the parts of the bundle that got caught in the twist and keep on spinning.

    One good question is how old is the use of a drop spindle?

    I would bet, that the very fibers that made marks of wear on those ancient shell ornaments will also yeald up microscopic hints of twist. This would indicate a spun fiber was used. My bet is actually a testable hypothesis though we must wait for the experts to comment on it based on their findings re this discovery.

    BTW I tend to get fuzzy on details, so please feel free to correct me and to add your own opinions....
    Thanks to DFrey for pointing out the oldest shells did not have the thread marks, (though they were assumed to be worn as adornment)
    Last edited by Caitlin; 09-14-2007 at 05:40 PM.
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

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  2. #2
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    I found a book on Neolithic textiles on Google books: Prehistoric Textiles: The Development of Cloth in the Neolithic and Bronze ... By E. J. W. Barber

    I can't cut and paste it but the gist is that they have an actual example of twisted cord found in clay- dating from 15,000 BC and about 20,000 BC they have "a clear representation of twisted string on a carved venus figure" P40
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

  3. #3
    xeresana
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    I'm a spinner so you'd think I'd know these answers, right? Drop spindles are darned old. Before that, I think there was finger twisting. I'd do a google search to get dates but, I'm guessing you've already done that before posting here.

  4. #4
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    Hi Xerasana,
    I am flying by the seat of my pants today. I googled about 4-6 sites and was so pleased, I stopped. We're far from getting to the root of this.

    It is fantastic you are a spinner. I am not, though I fooled around with it and have a huge interest in the mythology (think Spider Woman) of spinning and weaving and of the peoples who based their entire culture on spinning: Snares, rabbitskin blankets of spun strips of rabbitskin, baskets, sandals, fabrics; there is quite an inventory of material culture objects based on spinning. We had some Anasazi (ancient ones) here in the Southwest who did base their material culture on spinning and weaving.

    Another related thing is the use of seashells in jewelry among the oldest people who lived in the Southwest in the arid highlands of the four corners country. Seashells would include abalone, spondylus and a white scallop shell among others.
    Last edited by Caitlin; 09-15-2007 at 03:17 AM.
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.

  5. #5
    Pearl Knotting & Wire Expert Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert knotty panda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Caitlin Williams
    What kinds of thread have been used for pearl stringing since the art of adornment began? When could our ancestors have starting using pearls as adornment and how?
    Not all threads are spun. Some are natural fibers. It would be my guess that the earliest stringing material would have been perhaps a blade of glade grass or stem threaded through the natural hole of a shell. Natural fibers were woven and are still being used; straw hats, thatched roofs.
    Last edited by knotty panda; 09-15-2007 at 03:23 PM.
    Pretty Panda pic by nlerner on her U.S. excursion last year, San Diego Zoo.[/SIZE][/SIZE]

  6. #6
    GemGeek
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    If you're going to make the Pearlitzer Prize official, then I've found my tagline!

    Cheers,
    Blaire

  7. #7
    DFrey
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    There are some very early needles found in the archaeological record in Europe and certainly the earliest hunters in Norht America left evidence that they were using needles as part of their material culture. There is no direct evidence that I know of but these needles were probably used with sinew that had been tanned to be soft ans subtle. This was used to sew leather clothing togther etc. Sinew has great strength for very thin thread like pieces and I suspect that sinew may have been used very early by hunter gather groups to string there bone and shell beads.
    DFrey

  8. #8
    Rare Pearl Senior Pearl-Guide.com Pearl Expert Caitlin's Avatar
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    What is glade grass? Grass, hemp, sinew, we have no idea what materials were available for adornment, but the ones mentioned were probably all in use....even an unspun fiber would tend to roll when worn. Maybe the 95,000 year old shell beads don't have fiber marks because sinew was used?

    It is so easy for people to take a fiber and roll it back and forth on the thigh....it rolls right up. Maybe it was a nervous person who discovered spinning.....(joke, joke)

    I thnk if they were drilling shells 75-95 thousand years ago for adornment, they were also capable of spinning, though of course not everything is spun. One thing I have learned is not to underestimate the capabilities of most ancient upright beings. Science has constantly pushed the dates back more and more since I graduated in 1963.....

    GG: I just made up the pearlizter thing on the spot when I read your article. I doubt it will become official, but that doesn't matter, I love your tag line.
    Last edited by Caitlin; 09-15-2007 at 05:43 PM.
    Caitlin

    How to hand-knot pearls without a tool

    My avatar is a Sea of Cortez mabe pearl. One of a pair of Mexican handmade earrings.