Plant Fiber Identification In Ancient Textiles

- Mar 11, 2019-

Light microscopy, normal transmission electron microscopy, and most recently scanning electron microscopy (SEM) are used to study ancient textile remains to determine what natural fibers were used to create them.Once textiles are found, the fibers are teased out using a light microscope and an SEM is used to look for characteristics in the textile that show what plant it is made of. In flax, for example, scientists look for longitudinal striations that show the cells of the plant stem and cross striations and nodes that are specific to flax fibers. Cotton is identified by the twist that occurs in the seed hairs when the fibers are dried to be woven. This knowledge helps us to learn where and when the cultivation of plants that are used in textiles first occurred, confirming the previous knowledge that was gained from studying the era in which different textile arts aligned with from a perspective of design.