The defeat of Russia in the Crimean War (1853–1856) convinced the newly enthroned Alexander II (r. 1855–1881) of the need for fundamental reforms in his country. The first institution he tackled was serfdom, and his Emancipation Edict (1861) ostensibly freed peasants from their bondage to the landowning aristocracy. Although the edict affected some 50 million serfs, it was not fully implemented. Peasants were not given land titles per se; the land was turned over to the control of local communities (mirs), which then allocated parcels to individual serfs. Moreover, they were forced to make annual payments to the government in the form of loans that would compensate the former landowners; the loan amounts were often higher than the dues aristocrats had demanded before emancipation.
A 2009 paper in Science announced the identification of at least 488 fibers of flax attached to clay samples found in a cave in Georgia. Some of these fibers had been spun and dyed, and one of the threads (no. 8 below) had been twisted. The applied colors, ranging from black to gray to turquoise, may indicate that the inhabitants of the cave were engaged in producing colorful textiles. The presence of spores in the cave indicates that fungus was probably already growing on the clothes and progressively breaking them down.
From Eliso Kvavadze et al., SCIENCE 325: 1359 (2009). Reprinted with permission from AAAS.