For over 2,000 years, samplers have been used by various cultures and civilizations to demonstrate fine needlework. The earliest examples originate from South America and Africa, with European samplers not emerging until the 16th century. Samplers were also used to preserve stitching patterns for future use; these would then be amalgamated to create a pattern book. These demonstrations of sewing and embroidery would feature a wide range of subjects, from nature scenes of animals and plants to alphabets. Surviving samplers have been found in a number of materials, such as silk, linen and threads of precious metals. Samplers continue to be made today, either replicating historic examples or incorporating modern designs. Popular modern samplers are commemorative of important life events or relate to the family's history.