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Did Ice Age Cultures Lose Technological Skills?
Feb 1, 2000

Archaeologists have discovered what the well-dressed Ice Age woman wore on ritual occasions. Her outfit, however, including accessories, doesn't resemble anything Wilma Flintstone ever wore, or, for that matter, any of our carved-in-stone conceptions of "paleofashion." Instead, the threads of at least some Ice Age women included caps or snoods, belts and skirts, bandeaux (banding over the breasts) and bracelets and necklaces - all constructed of plant fibers in a great variety of cloth, from twined and basket wear to plain weaves. While styling varied across Eurasia, the finest weaves are "comparable to not only Neolithic but even later Bronze and Iron Age products, or, in fact, to thin cotton and linenwear worn today," Olga Soffer, James Adovasio and David Hyland wrote in an article to be published in Current Anthropology.

The evidence for Ice Age summer fashions comes in part from 80 textile impressions Soffer found on tiny clay fragments in the Czech Republic. The impressions are "the earliest evidence for cordage and textile production in the world and reflect technologies heretofore associated with much later periods," the archaeologists wrote. Soffer, a professor of anthropology at the University of Illinois and a pioneer in the study of Upper Paleolithic life ways, compared the impressions to the representation of clothing on the so-called "Venus" figurines, which also date to the Gravettian period, roughly 25,000 years ago. "It suddenly struck us that what we were looking at under the microscope on these little fragments was precisely what was being shown as clothing on some of these 'naked ladies,' " she said, noting that in all likelihood the Ice Age seamstresses also carved the figurines that showed off their "exquisitely detailed" weaving, plaiting and coiling skills.