Thursday, September 12, 2013

As Fashion Week Ends, Pondering the Origins of Clothes

A reconstruction of a Neanderthal female.
Photograph by Joe McNally, National Geographic
As Fashion Week winds down in New York, scientists continue their own search for the very latest in ancient fashion—latest meaning oldest. They're asking one seemingly simple question: Who invented clothes anyway?
As straightforward as it sounds, it isn't easy to answer. We may be used to artistic depictions of prehistoric Homo sapiens and Neanderthals wrapped in furry hides, but, in truth, the story of how clothing became such a prominent mark of humanity is only just starting to be unraveled.
Clothing doesn't readily fossilize. Much like the soft tissues that wrap our bones, fabrics and other body coverings decay rapidly. Yet, despite this, archaeologists and anthropologists are starting to figure out the elements of prehistoric style through an array of indirect evidence that includes everything from dyed plant fibers to lice.
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