Saturday, September 29, 2012

Lusehøj


I had not heard of Lusehøj until reading in the headlines that this Bronze Age burial mound in central Denmark has been found to contain cloth made from stinging nettle (1st image) that could only have been obtained through long-distance trade. “I expected the nettles to have grown in Danish soil on the island of Funen, but when I analysed the plant fibres' strontium isotope levels, I could see that this was not the case," explains researcher Karin Margarita Frei of the Danish National Research Foundation's Centre for Textile Research at the University of Copenhagen. Instead, she learned that c. 800 B.C. Bronze Age Danes were obtaining goods from as far away as present-day Austria. Frei and her colleagues spell out the method they developed to make the discovery in Scientific Reports. At the time, wild nettle was still being used for textiles in addition to cultivated flax. Coauthor Ulla Mannering suggests that an importer of bronze died while on a business trip to Austria 2,800 years ago. His body was burned and his bones were wrapped in the nettle cloth and placed in a bronze urn (2nd image) from central Europe before being transported back to Denmark. "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," describes Mannering.
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