Stone Age string

Scientists discover 8,000 year old string
Maybe they misheard the question, but archaeologists say a piece of string is 8,000 years old.
They found the antique string – the oldest ever found in Britain – hidden amongst a flooded Stone Age settlement just off the coast of the Isle of Wight.
It’s four and a half inches long and experts say it is made from stems of honeysuckle, nettles or wild clematis twisted together.
The editor of the British Archaeology magazine, Mike Pitts described it as a “fantastic find” adding: “I don’t think the average person realises what an important piece of technology string has been over the ages.”
It’s unknown how much such a relic would fetch at auction. Experts say it’s quite valuable in a historical sense but fear it would be like paying money for old rope. Internationally much older bits of string have been found, desert conditions in Israel have preserved pieces which are 19,000 years old.
Some believe string could even pre-date humans as some gorillas and chimps have been known to twist fibres together and even tie knots.


Experts believe the settlement was flooded at the end of the last ice age, when glacial sheets that covered most of Europe, including Britain from the Midlands northwards, melted.

Jan Gillespie, of Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology, said: “The string was found with wooden planks and stakes and some pits containing burnt flint. We believe they may have been heated up to help work timber into boats.”

Textiles and Fiber Arts as Catalysts for Ideas – String

Instruction for making string from nettles


2 comments on “Stone Age string

  1. Neko says:

    I saw the string on the BBC, it’s very cool- we hardly ever get organic materials preserved and it’s only when you start doing ‘wet’ (either underwater or wetland) archaeology that you tend to find in our wetter climates. That part of the Solent has lots of amazing mesolithic finds. There are lobster burrows there, in an old landsurface and I once read a great paper about them ‘excavating’ handaxes!

  2. saesferd says:

    Thank you for your comment, Neko.

    Hampshire and Wight Trust for Maritime Archaeology has a summary of the Bouldnor Cliff project and the first inklings of a potentially interesting site from the lobster burrows:

    “It was on a routine survey dive as part of SolMAP 98
    that project volunteers first spotted interesting worked flints in a lobster burrow, needless to say excitement grew and more worked flints were found over the rest of the season and in 1999.”
    and the discovery of hearths…
    The newly exposed stratigraphic layers were exciting but suggest a complicated sequence of events. The lowest exposure contained fluvial gravels within sand and flint fragments. A small cluster of burnt flints were recovered from above this horizon which suggests burning and possibly a hearth. A silty sand layer above this contained freshly knapped flints. ”
    Also a bit about excavation method, assessment and analysis, with plans of the site.
    Checking lobster burrows is obviously the marine equivalent of examining rabbit holes and molehills for what may have been unearthed in land archaeology!

    The organic materials and starboard of The Mary Rose is another famous case of the wonders of waterlogging, again, in the Solent, surviving in anaerobic conditions under layers of silt, protected from the currents, and erosion by marine organisms.

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