Sewing For Survival: How Sewing Caused the Survival of the Human Race
One of my favourite sewing bloggers recently wrote a post about her blog and how she doesn’t want to become a faceless tutorial writer.
As I have a nasty feeling that I might be at risk of becoming a faceless tutorial writer myself, I’ve decided to mix things up a bit and write about some different stuff as well as the usual tutorials.
So here’s a post that’s about something related to sewing that I found out about a little while ago. It seems that when our ancestors learnt to sew, they were sewing for survival of the human race!
We all know that dinosaurs walked the Earth millions of years ago and eventually died out.
But did you know that scientists believe that at one stage, there were several different species of human?
These included Neanderthals, hobbit people and Homo Sapiens, the ancestor of the modern human.
In the end, Homo Sapiens survived but the others didn’t.
Why Did Only the Homo Sapiens Survive?
There are several theories as to why Homo Sapiens survived and the other humans didn’t.
One theory is climate change.
Climate change is not just a modern thing! It’s something that also occurs naturally. It’s worth remembering that when the Romans lived in Britain, they actually had vineyards at least as far north as Lincolnshire. This was because Britain had a warmer climate in Roman times. And the Victorians used to have Frost Fairs on the River Thames in the winter because the water froze.
The effect of climate change had less to do with our prehistoric ancestors not liking the weather, and more to do with how it affected what they ate. As the climate changed, the food they ate would have moved on or become scarcer.
Another theory is that Homo Sapiens were better at lighting fires.
As well as keeping them warm, cooking food on a fire would have killed parasites and made food easier to eat and to digest.
They would also have been able to use the fire to cure meat, thus giving them a source of food even if hunting was scarce.
Language and communication is another theory.
Homo Sapiens also probably had greater language development than the other human species. They would have been able to discuss ideas and solutions to problems and pass them on.
They also had better tools than the Neanderthals did. Probably aided by their language development, their tools became more advanced and they were able to make items from bone and antler as well as from stone.
How Did Learning to Sew Make a Difference?
The sewing for survival theory pulls all these other theories together.
Being good with fire meant that they were able to use fire to help them in making their tools. Heating rocks before flaking meant that they were able to get smaller, thinner flakes. These were then used to make finer tools from bone and antler, including needles, awls and fastenings for clothing.
Making these kind of tools marked a major technological advancement. This was probably helped along by their better language skills, which enabled them to communicate, develop and share ideas.
Prehistoric people would have been more able to cope with climate change and extremes of temperature in clothes that were sewn, rather than tied. Sewn clothes could be made to fit better and would offer better protection from the weather.
What Did They Make?
Remains have been found of trousers, tunics, cloaks and coats.
They also wore shoes and boots made from animal hide.
The clothes sometimes had fastenings on them, often beads and buttons made from bone.
As far as the experts know, only homo sapiens wore clothes.
There’s also evidence that they might used their sewing skills to make tents.
What Were Their Clothes Made From?
Stone Age people made their clothes from animal skins. Archaeological evidence shows that they trapped arctic foxes and wolves, probably for their fur.
Knowing exactly what they made their clothes from is difficult as the sorts of materials they would have used have long since rotted away. At several archaeological sites in Europe, impressions have been found that were left by textiles, but no evidence of the textiles themselves remain.
However, there is a spot in Georgia (the country, not the US state!) where fibres of flax have been found. The flax was probably used to make baskets as well as clothes. The fibres indicate that they were probably dyed black and grey, and possibly also pink and turquoise.
So next time you’re making something for yourself or someone else, remember the Stone Age people who probably did just the same as you! They made themselves clothes to keep warm, to keep the sun off and for personal decoration. And by sewing for survival, our ancestors ensured that now, in 2017, we would be able to do the same thing!