The earliest forms of textile or stages in the production of ‘textiles’ were discovered from sites that date to the Upper Paleolithic era, almost 40.000 years ago. At these sites, fiber strips were found that were made from elongated plant stems. From that period onwards, textiles were used by almost all cultures. Different textiles in kind and shape are used in costume and other wearable heritage items throughout history. The raw material and production methods for textile are extremely varied. Textiles may be made of bark, cotton, silk, flax, raffia, wool, etc. A small impression of the impressive diversity of textile is shown in the pictures on this page.
This fibrous material is archaeologically often only preserved in extreme situations such as arid (dry desert) sites or wet sites, where no oxygen is present and the climate situation is relatively stable. Textile might be preserved in Roman cemeteries in the Egyptian desert (top left and the background image). Textile is often used as basis material for dress and costume ornaments and is combined with other decorative materials. These decorative materials may vary from other textiles to metal or plants.
As textile deteriorates, small pieces may be reused and repairs may be made. It is often these adjustments in textile objects that tell an interesting story. Textile itself is also used as material to ward off evil. Small strips are hung in trees as amulets to ward off evil with their unpredictable movement in the wind. Or, small bundles of textile strips that once belonged to a dress may be carried around for good luck.