A 2,800 year old Bronze Age fabric discovered in Denmark has recently been identified as made out of nettle fibers. Many of us are familiar with nettles as a source of cordage materials, but how may of you have thought about making clothing out of it?
The fabric was initially identified as being made out of flax, as it came from an area with developed agriculture and history of manufacture of linen textiles. Interestingly, the material is not local to Denmark. A study of the nettle fibers indicates that they came from Austria.
It is unclear why the material was imported and used in an area where other, more easily produced textiles were available. It could be because it was in some way a better material, but it could also be that its non-local origin made it a desirable commodity as a function of its rarity.
Either way, it shows what can be accomplished through use of resources available in the wild. I imagine someone had to harvest a whole lot of nettles in order to make this cloth. If you have ever dried nettle fibers to make cordage, you know how little fiber is produced from each plant. I imagine a larger scale production effort was require, most likely soaking the plants in water to release the fibers in larger quantities.