Objects: A 3,000 Year Old Ball Of Yarn

The historical record is murky when it comes to knitting, as textiles and threads are notorious for breaking down relatively quickly compared to other materials. Recently, scientists unearthed a small artifact with big implications.

In 2016 archaeologists uncovered the worlds oldest ball of yarn near Cambridge, England. The tiny, one centimeter ball has spent the last 3,000 years deep underground in a bog, in the Bronze-Age remains of what archaeologists call the Must Farm and the media has dubbed “Britain’s Pompeii”.

At some point in time three millennia ago there was a fire that consumed the three structures of the Must Farm, and the heavily damaged buildings sank down into the bog. Bogs are a godsend in the world of archaeology – as the peat in a bog rots it releases humic acid, otherwise known as bog acid, which preserves organic material in much the same way vinegar preserves a jar of pickles.

A second string of yarn, wrapped around a spool, was also uncovered. While we’ll never know what they were making, it’s fun to daydream about the pieces they were knitting.


(Photos courtesy of Must Farm Archaeology)