Something about the strange strands didn’t fit. Patricia Sutherland spotted it right away: the weird fuzziness of them, so soft to the touch.
The strands of cordage came from an abandoned settlement at the northern tip of Canada’s Baffin Island, far above the Arctic Circle and north of Hudson Bay. There indigenous hunters had warmed themselves by seal-oil lamps some 700 years ago. In the 1980s a Roman Catholic missionary had also puzzled over the soft strands after digging hundreds of delicate objects from the same ruins….
From my story in the November 2012 issue of National Geographic. Read the entire story here