A very brief update this week as we are very busy on site of late. Chris is working on the last of the burials in the northeast platform of Building 77, Barbara is excavating a neonate burial in Building 102 and Josh is monitoring several emerging burials in the South Area. Today I started working on removing an infant burial from the northwest platform of Building 52. The infant (in the lower left of the image above) was placed face down in a grave cut that also contained the disarticulated crania of at least five other individuals of various ages. We could see immediately that there were plant fibres as well as soft tissue (more on this in future posts) preserved near the legs and abdomen as a result of the burning in the building, but we weren’t prepared for what we found once we started removing the bones.
Extremely well-preserved textile lay just beneath the skeleton – the more soil we removed, the more it continued. It seems to be made of strips of woven fibres that have been stitched together. Dorian Fuller, an archaeobotanist from the Institute of Archaeology at UCL, has identified the plant material as flax (one of the oldest fibre crops in the world), which is used to produce linen. James Mellaart also discovered textiles during his excavations at Çatalhöyük in the 1960s. While our discovery is nowhere near the oldest surviving textile in the world (that honor goes to 30,000 year old flax fibres found in a cave in Georgia), it is certainly one of the earliest discoveries of intact woven fabric in the Near East.