Weird History 11 Surprising Historical Items That Were Created Using Spider Silk  

Rachel Souerbry
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Items made of spider silk have a strange but alluring appeal around the world despite, or perhaps because of, the fact that many people around the world live in terror of the eight-legged creatures. Spider silk clothing is considered the rarest type of garment, since thread made of spider silk is extremely difficult to make. Certain spiders, like the gorgeous Golden Orb Weaver whose silk is frequently used, sadly don't thrive outside of the wild, and are hard to domesticate and control.

Despite its fragility, uses of spider silk throughout history are both extensive and impressive. Some cultures have been very creative in their uses of the humble spider web, creating everything from fishing lures to violin strings to bandages to canvases for paint. Items made from spider webs have seen use in the fields of science, medicine, spirituality, and art.

Although these fascinating items from the past may have been way ahead of their time, spiderweb silk might yet be the "textile of the future." Items using spider silk are high-craft rarities and not mainstream, but fascinating uses of spiderwebs are creeping into the modern era, with scientific research utilizing more gossamer technology. There's even talk of spider-based bulletproof clothing, and more on the horizon. 

A Golden Silk Cape That Took M... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list 11 Surprising Historical Items That Were Created Using Spider Silk
Photo: cmglee/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0
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A Golden Silk Cape That Took More Than One Million Spiders To Produce

In 2009, two men created the largest known piece of fabric made of spider silk from Gold Orb Weavers. It took Simon Peers, an art history and textile expert, and his business partner Nicholas Godley more than one million spiders and half a decade to complete their mission. No spiders were killed in the cape-making process: instead, when the spiders had spun all the silk they had, they were released back into the wild. Spiders start producing silk again after about one week. The final product, an 11 by 4 foot piece of cloth, is considered to be the rarest type of fabric in the world.

A Machine That Could Extract S... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list 11 Surprising Historical Items That Were Created Using Spider Silk
Photo: Victoria and Albert Museum/Vimeo
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A Machine That Could Extract Silk From 24 Spiders Simultaneously

The man responsible for creating the first piece of cloth made from spider silk, Father Jacob Paul Camboué, also created a crafty way of extracting the spider's silk. The hand-made machine that he put together could pull the silk from 24 spiders at one time, without harming their delicate bodies. The spiders were all released after their silk ran out, and more spiders were caught to fill the machine again. The modern makers of spider silk fabrics use a machine based on this original model. 

Greeks And Roman Bandages That... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list 11 Surprising Historical Items That Were Created Using Spider Silk
Photo: OxfordSilkGroup/YouTube
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Greeks And Roman Bandages That Could Actually Help To Stop Bleeding

They may not have known the science behind what they were doing, but ancient Greeks and Romans learned very early on that spiderwebs make great bandages. There are three key reasons why: first, spider webs contain high amounts of vitamin K, which helps blood to clot. This meant that the webs would would stop bleeding faster. In addition, the webs of most spiders have antibacterial and antifungal properties, which helps with the healing process by preventing infection. Finally, spiderwebs will mesh with human skin as it heals, which also speeds up the healing process. Of course, an important caviat to all this is that it's important to use only the webs from non-poisonous spiders, particularly against open wounds. But with all of those benefits, it isn't surprising that people are looking to incorporate spider webs into more modern medical technology.

Fascinating Yet Historically C... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list 11 Surprising Historical Items That Were Created Using Spider Silk
Photo: Daderot/Wikimedia Commons/CC0 1.0
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Fascinating Yet Historically Controversial Ceremonial Masks Of Ancient Vanuatu

In the island nation of Vanuatu, there are masks of ancient origin that the rest of the world has always struggled to understand. While some museums in the western world call them "death masks" or "smothering hoods," many historians believe that they were simply ceremonial, possibly used by secret societies. The masks are made using a base of matted spider silk, which was then covered in a layer of mud and fibers. They are decorated to look like faces, which could be somewhat intimidating.