Methods of dating ancient textiles

Purpose To discover the makeup of textiles in order to place them historically.

Method Textile analysis can aid everyone from forensic anthropologists searching for clues to museum conservators hoping to identify and preserve an antique dress.

However, the textiles themselves had never been dated, and whether they too were that old had been controversial, according to Edward Jolie, an archaeologist at Mercyhurst College (PA) who led this latest research.

The cave had been disturbed frequently by human and geological activity, so it was possible that the textiles could have belonged to much more recent inhabitants.

What's more, the prior radiocarbon dates for the site had been taken from bone, obsidian, and charcoal -- items that are known to sometimes produce inaccurate radiocarbon ages.

According to Jolie, charcoal especially can produce dates that tend to overestimate a site's age.

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For example, the English words "cotton" and "mohair," and "taffeta" and "seersucker," derive, respectively, from Arabic and Persian.

Of the many diverse arts that flourished in the early Islamic period, textiles played an especially significant role in society, one that continued in subsequent periods.

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