© The National Museum of Denmark
The 2,800-year-old Lusehøj textile made from imported nettles and found in a grave along with the bones from what may be a Scandinavian man, scientists report on Sept. 28, 2012.
Ancient scraps of fabric found in a grave in Denmark are not made of cultivated flax as once believed, but instead are woven from imported wild nettles, suggesting the grave's inhabitant may have traveled far for burial.
This discovery, announced today (Sept. 28) in the journal Scientific Reports,
casts a new light on the textile trade in Bronze Age
Europe, said study researcher Ulla Mannering, an archaeologist at the University of Copenhagen.
"Since the Stone Age, they had very well-developed agriculture and technology for producing linen textiles," Mannering told LiveScience. "So it's really unusual that a society which has established agriculture
would also take in material from things that are not of the normal standardized agricultural production" - in other words, wild plants.
A luxurious shroud
The soft and shiny fabric dates back to between 940 B.C. and 750 B.C., making it about 2,800 years old. It was discovered in Voldtofte, Denmark, at a rich Bronze Age burial ground called Lusehøj. The Bronze Age ran from about 3200 B.C. to 600 B.C. in Europe.
The fabric was wrapped around a bundle of cremated remains in a bronze urn. It was a luxurious piece of material, Mannering said.
"The fibers we get from the European nettle are very, very fine and soft and shiny, and we often say this is a sort of prehistoric silk textile," Mannering said. (Silk, made from insect cocoons, is known for its shimmery texture.)