As part of the research that I do to write the Darkeningstone books (scroll down for more details), I like to look at the existing evidence of the daily lives of people in the Neolithic period- especially any Neolithic items found in the UK. I found this nice piece from Scotland that shows they would have used weaving, stitching and animal skins, but they didn't find evidence, interestingly, that they tanned skins to make what we know as leather. I stand by my references to leather because we know they did prepare hides for a number of uses and the word leather is a handy shorthand for a prepared hide, even though technically, their animal skin products weren't quite the same as ours. Also, because leather is organic, there is very little evidence of its nature.
Direct evidence for Neolithic textiles and animal skins seems to be lacking entirely; once again, these would have been ubiquitous and important elements of Neolithic material culture, especially as items of clothing. Instead, there is a reliance on indirect evidence, in the following forms:
- Carbonised seeds found at the ‘hall' at Balbridie, Aberdeenshire (Fairweather and Ralston 1993), demonstrating that flax was cultivated from the earliest Neolithic in Scotland, thereby raising the possibility that linen could have been used (as a thread, if not also as woven fabric).
- One impression of woven cloth, found on a sherd of Impressed Ware from Flint Howe, Glenluce, Dumfries and Galloway (Henshall 1969) and likely to date to between 3500 BC and 2900 BC. According to Audrey Henshall, ‘The textile was a plain weave cloth, with one system of threads much closer together than the other system; the latter would have been hardly visible and they have not registered in the impression. There were about 32 threads per inch in the close-set system, and about 10 threads per inch in the wide-set system. The direction of spin of the former was S (z on the impression). The Luce Sands textile seems to have been almost a repp.' [a fabric with prominent rounded crosswise ribs].
- Dress accessories: i) bone pins, used to fasten garments (see above, Skara Brae). The examples are all from Late Neolithic Orkney. It is not possible to tell, however, whether such pins were designed for use with animal skin garments or with fabric garments; ii) Middle Neolithic belt sliders of jet and jet-like materials, which imply the use of belts (of various widths, but generally below 50 mm) to constrain garments.
- Borers (mostly or wholly of bone), which could have been used to pierce animal skins; bone needles (from Skara Brae), for sewing; knives (of stone) to cut skins; scrapers (of flint, other stone or bone) to remove fat from skins; and haematite blocks, which could have been used to smooth and polish skins.
By the way
If you're keen on the Neolithic period, you may enjoy the historical threads in my Darkeningstone novels where I explore what life may have been like over 5,000 years ago.
The first full-length novel is Trespass which you can find online here.
Alternatively, you can get the prequel, Breaking Ground, which includes some Neolithic hunting and tribal rivalry, for free as one of the perks of joining my readers' group: get your free book here.
Text and images curated from:
Text and mono images: http://www.scottishheritagehub.com/content/533-textiles-and-animal-skins
Featured image of clothes: http://www.deutsches-museum.de/en/exhibitions/materials-energy/textile-technology/tour/