Or maybe it was a girl, comforting a feverish sibling by playing with her hair, that tugged and smoothed the pieces and crossed them over and over, each piece finding the centre, and the first braid was the result.
Or, perhaps it was a shaman, in a vision, who received the knowledge and saw in the stars the lines spinning out like light in the web of creation.
Was the process of adoption and application of this art and technology a matter of years? generations? tens of generations? thousands of years? I wonder the same things about baskets, too. Textiles decay, so unless we find fossil records of our ancestors and their artefacts trapped in mud like impressions of ancient fish in sandstone, with the soft parts recorded, we can't know. Evidence of boats seems to date from around 50-60,000 years ago, and it is difficult to imagine boats without ropes. The anthropologist Meredith F. Small reports that there is an impression of laid rope on pottery dating from 28,000 years ago (pottery is considered a comparatively modern technology in prehistory); and others have noted the existence of some fossilized fragments of laid rope found in the caves of Lascaux, France from 15,000 years ago -- 2-ply laid rope, about 7mm in diameter -- just the size to fit in the hands, the wrists twisting and crossing, exactly as I will do today, 600 generations later.
Click through to my Pinterest board about rope: types, materials, machines, and amazing examples.