Saturday, May 29, 2021

"What if the need for fabric, not food, in the face of a changing climate is what first tipped humanity towards agriculture?"

Clothing, very important, some links after the jump.

From Aeon:

The clothing revolution

Archaeologists and other scientists are beginning to unravel the story of our most intimate technology: clothing. They’re learning when and why our ancestors first started to wear clothes, and how their adoption was crucial to the evolutionary success of our ancestors when they faced climate change on a massive scale during the Pleistocene ice ages. These investigations have revealed a new twist to the story, assigning a much more prominent role to clothing than previously imagined. After the last ice age, global warming prompted people in many areas to change their clothes, from animal hides to textiles. This change in clothing material, I suspect, could be what triggered one of the greatest changes in the life of humanity. Not food but clothing led to the agricultural revolution.

My recent work shows that clothing wasn’t just the unique adaptation of a more-or-less hairless mammal to the changing natural environments. The development of clothing led to innovations with many repercussions for humanity, beyond survival in cold climates. A need for portable insulation from the cold in the Palaeolithic promoted major technological transitions. These include stone toolkits for working animal hides and, subsequently, bone tools such as pointed awls and needles to make tailored garments. Later, during the coldest stage of the last ice age, Homo sapiens in middle latitudes devised multi-layered outfits with an inner layer of underwear. Equipped with effective protection from wind chill, our species could penetrate into the frigid Arctic Circle, further north than cold-adapted Neanderthals had managed to venture. From the northeastern corner of Siberia, modern humans strolled across an exposed land bridge to enter Alaska by 15,000 years ago, if not earlier, to likely become the first hominins to set foot in the Americas. At the Broken Mammoth site in Alaska, archaeologists have unearthed the fragile technology that made the journey possible: a 13,000-year-old eyed needle.

Until recently, the scientific study of clothing was largely the work of physiologists who have explored its thermal properties, which are now well understood. The physiology of clothing allows us to say precisely how much clothing people must wear to survive at sub-freezing temperatures and at differing wind-chill levels. Early hominins in Africa had begun to harness fire between 1 and 2 million years ago, perhaps for cooking more than warmth. Fire was utilised as hominins spread into Europe and northern China, where Homo erectus retreated into caves to escape wind chill. However, even if earlier hominins were more hairy than modern humans, whenever they found themselves in cold conditions beyond certain well-defined survival thresholds, they needed to carry portable insulation while out in the open. For modern humans, exposure times for frostbite can be less than an hour, and life-threatening hypothermia can develop overnight, even in cities. From a thermal perspective, two aspects of clothing are important. First is the number of layers, with each extra layer increasing the total insulation value. The second aspect is whether garments are fitted, or tailored, to enclose the body, especially the limbs. Fitted garments offer superior protection from wind chill, a major risk factor for frostbite and hypothermia.

While clothing is one of the most visible of all human technologies, in the field of archaeology it’s almost invisible. Compared with stone tools surviving from the Lower Palaeolithic more than 3 million years ago, clothes perish rapidly and rarely survive beyond a single millennium. Among the notable exceptions are a pair of 3,000-year-old trousers worn by nomadic horse-riders in Central Asia, and a 5,000-year-old linen tunic from ancient Egypt. We have only a few precious cloth fragments from the early Neolithic, in Peru and Turkey. Not a shred of clothing survives from the Pleistocene, with just a few twisted flax fibres – used perhaps for strings or thread – found at a 34,000-year-old site in Georgia.

All the evidence we have for ice-age clothing is indirect but, nonetheless, the available evidence shows that people had tailored clothes in the last ice age. The world’s oldest eyed needles are found in southern Russia 40,000 years ago, and one needle in Denisova Cave is said to be 50,000 years old. In the vicinity of Moscow at a site called Sunghir, 30,000-year-old human burials have thousands of beads neatly arranged on the skeletons. Russian archaeologists think that these beads were sewn on to fitted garments, including trousers with legs and shirts with sleeves. Some of the skeletons appear to have two layers of garments, indicating the presence of multiple layers, so the Sunghir burials document the world’s oldest underwear. Artworks across Eurasia begin to show people wearing clothes from that time, including the so-called ‘Venus’ figurines.

The Venus of Willendorf figurine, estimated to be from around 25,000 years ago and now in the 
Natural History Museum, Vienna. Note the woven cap. Photo courtesy Wikipedia.

Scientific efforts to shed light on the prehistory of clothes have received an unexpected boost from another line of research, the study of clothing lice, or body lice. These blood-sucking insects make their home mainly on clothes and they evolved from head lice when people began to use clothes on a regular basis. Research teams in Germany and the United States analysed the genomes of head and clothing lice to estimate when the clothing parasites split from the head ones. One advantage of the lice research is that the results are independent from other sources of evidence about the origin of clothes, such as archaeology and palaeoclimatology. The German team, led by Mark Stoneking at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, came up with a date of 70,000 years ago, revised to 100,000 years ago, early in the last ice age. The US team led by David Reed at the University of Florida reported a similar date of around 80,000 years ago, and maybe as early as 170,000 years ago during the previous ice age. These findings from the lice research suggest that our habit of wearing clothes was established quite late in hominin evolution.......

...One mystery is that modern humans have been on the Earth for around 300,000 years and witnessed massive changes in climate through a number of glacial cycles, yet we had no agriculture anywhere until 12,000 years ago.

There was a connection between the textile revolution and the agricultural revolution



"Four Thousand Years Ago, Textile Traders Invented a Basic Social Technology: Mass Literacy"
"How Bills of Exchange Went from a Way to Bring Textile Proceeds Home to the 'Foundation of Modern Commercial Banking'"
Slovak President Sports a Stylish Ensemble: Boatneck Dress with Matching Pumps and Fabric Mask
"Fashion, Maslow and Facebook's control of social"

 And many, many more.