Çatalhöyük in Turkey

First hemp-weaved fabric in the World found wrapped around baby in 9,000-year-old house

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Latest excavation work in the ancient city of Çatalhöyük in Turkey has revealed the world’s first hemp-weaved fabric, which was found wrapped around a baby skeleton in the ground of a burned house.

The city of Çatalhöyük is the largest and best-preserved Neolithic site found to date. At a time when most of the world's people were nomadic hunter-gatherers, Çatalhöyük was a bustling town of as many as 10,000 people.  Inscribed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it is known as one of the best sites for understanding human Prehistory.

The linen, which dates back 9,000 years, was found as part of the latest dig, which involved 120 people from 22 different countries, and was one of the most striking findings of the season, particularly due to its high level of preservation.

The hemp-weaved fabric found in Çatalhöyük. Photo Credit

“The fire warmed up the ground and platforms of the building and created a kiln drying effect. Therefore the pieces and this piece of cloth underground have been so far protected. Examinations in the laboratory show that this piece of cloth is linen weaved with hemp,” said Professor Ian Hodder, head of the excavations.  “This is a first in the world and one of the best preserved examples.”

Hemp is a commonly used term for high growing varieties of the Cannabis plant and its products, which include fibre, oil, and seed. Hemp fibre was widely used throughout history for items ranging from rope to fabrics and even sail canvases.  Hodder believes the piece of linen came from the eastern Mediterranean from the central Anatolia, and may be evidence of hemp used in trade.

Hemp has been cultivated by many civilizations for over 12,000 years. However, until the latest discovery, the oldest evidence of hemp fibre came from imprints found on Yangshao pottery in China dating to the 5th millennium BC.  The Chinese later used hemp to make clothes, shoes, ropes, and an early form of paper. The classical Greek historian Herodotus (ca. 480 BC) reported that the inhabitants of Scythia would often inhale the vapours of hemp-seed smoke, both as ritual and for their own pleasurable recreation. It is not known whether the inhabitants of Çatalhöyük in Turkey had discovered the more ‘recreational uses’ of the Cannabis plant.

Featured image: Excavations taking place at Çatalhöyük. Photo credit .

By April Holloway


angieblackmon's picture

as an avid crocheter, i'm interested to know how people first figured out HOW to take a particular fiber and weave it into something! it's not hard to learn to knit or crochet at this day in age, you can ask anyone from your grandma to youtube, but in the beginning...how did they figure this out!?!

love, light and blessings


I would imagine it was done thru trial and error as the need arose. Good question though, makes me stop and think....I found myself asking what did they use for diapers or clothing and when did it become apparent the hemp would work as a blend. Very interesting...

Does this not also give creedence to the idea that there were factories in the remote past where items were massed produced, maybe not on our level today but it was nothing to be scoffed at. Rome had factories, why not other civilization even further into antiquity.

Could have been trial and erroe over time but it seems like at this point these people had this down if not perfected by then so how further into the past does this come from?

angieblackmon's picture

only slightly related but we cloth diaper and a lot of our inserts even now are hemp. the absorbancy is amazing!

love, light and blessings


Please can you tell me in what kind of technique was it made: twinning, plain weave, knotting, looping?
Thank you very much for your answer.

aprilholloway's picture

Hi Patricia, I am afraid I don't know. You could try contacting the study authors at http://www.catalhoyuk.com/ 

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