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8000 - 7000 BCE: The earliest known fabric is woven from hemp.

The Columbia History of the World states that the oldest evidence of human industry is a bit of hemp fabric found in Taiwan that dates back to approximately 8,000 BCE1, but according to The Great Book of Hemp, a 12,000 years old Neolithic site unearthed at Yuan-Shan included coarse, sandy pottery with hempen cord marks covering the surface, and an incised, rod-shaped stone beater used to pound hemp into cord.2

Scattered among the trash and debris from this prehistoric community were some broken pieces of pottery the sides of which had been decorated by pressing strips of cord into the wet clay before it hardened. Also dispersed among the pottery fragments were some elongated rod-shaped tools, very similar in appearance to those later used to loosen cannabis fibers from their stems.3 These simple pots, with their patterns of twisted fiber embedded in their sides, suggest that men have been using the marijuana plant in some manner since the dawn of history.

 The discovery that twisted strands of fiber were much stronger than individual strands was followed by developments in the arts of spinning and weaving fibers into fabric - innovations that ended man's reliance on animal skins for clothing. Here, too, it was hemp fiber that the Chinese chose for their first homespun garments. So important a place did hemp fiber occupy in ancient Chinese culture that the Book of Rites (second century BCE) ordained that out of respect for the dead, mourners should wear clothes made from hemp fabric, a custom followed down to modern times.4


1. John Arthur Garraty and Peter Gay, The Columbia History of the World (Columbia University faculty, 1986)
2. Rowan Robinson, "The Great Book of Hemp: The Complete Guide to the Environmental, Commercial, and Medicinal Uses of the World's Most Extraordinary (Vermont, Park Street Press, 1995)
3. K. Chang, The Archaeology of Ancient China (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1968), pp. 111-12; C.T. Kung, Archeology in China (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1959), 1:131.
4. H. Li, "The Origin and Use of Cannabis in Eastern Asia: Their Linguistic Cultural Implications," in Cannabis and Culture, ed. V. Rubin (The Hague: Mouton, 1975), p.54.
Research and text © Hempshopper Amsterdam.