Genetic data suggest that body hair of hominines was lost c 1.2-3 Ma. Out of Africa, Early Homo sp. occupied parts of Europe and Central Asia that were cooler and increased their vulnerability to cold stress. Our ancestors established long-lasting populations in these regions, which coped successfully with variable climates. Clothing was likely a necessary technology for early hominines in Eurasia, but the timing of early clothing use will never be exactly known.
Much cultural progress is made by combining older cultural techniques, which in turn may lead to techniques with complete new qualities. This has nothing to do with a “creative explosion, fully fledged modern thinking and the human revolution….”. Making holes into shells, that were later used as pendants is known since the MSA. Instruments made of bone or other organic material, which could have been used in a needle-like intention appeared during the Early Upper Paleolithic. The invention of eyed needles (the combination of drilling a hole into a needle) was a great leap forward and enabled the production of tight clothes, which helped people to cope with the cold.
The history of eyed needles is a good example for the Diffusion of Innovations theory. The oldest eyed needles have been found at Mezmaiskaya in the EUP (“Ahmarian like”) layers 1A and 1B, at least 33-36 k.a old. There are also reports about needles during the EUP of the Kostenki-Borshchevo area dating into the time interval of 40-30 k.a. BP. Eyed needles seem to become more common during the Gravettian, Solutrean and Epigravettian periods (For example during the upper Solutrean at Badegoule and Laugerie Haute, the Pavlovian at the Krems Wachtberg site [27 k.a. BP], the Epigravettian at Grubgraben/Kammern [18 k.a. BP], the Epigravettian at Kastritsa [between 24 and 15 k.a. BP]). During the European Magdalenian, eyed needles are found in large quantities both in France and Middle Europe. While the use of eyed bone needles continued until the 17thcentury in the old and new world, first copper needles were produced in Armenia at 5 k.a. BC. Bronze needles came in common use in the Near East and Europe at 2,5 k.a. BC. The oldest iron needle known was found in what is now Germany, and dates back to the 3rd century BC. Needles made of steel were the halmark of the industrial revolution.
Today’s needles are manufactured from high carbon steel wire with either nickel or gold coating to make it corrosion resistant. The highest quality needles are plated with platinum and titanium alloy.
*Ewald Keymel (Wahren-Wuppertal)