Fragments of flax fibres found in Georgia indicate that this plant has been cultivated for almost 40,000 years. As its Latin name suggests, flax is an all-purpose material that can be used for food, clothing, decoration and construction. Flax was grown in Normandy from the 13th century and production reached its peak in the 18th century, with the introduction of cotton in Europe. When artists began to paint on canvas in the 15th century and – following the example of Jan Van Eyck – replaced tempera with linseed oil, the plant became intimately linked to the art world. Today, Normandy is the world's leading producer of flax.