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Who invented clothes? A Palaeolithic archaeologist answers

Clothes can insulate against cold or heat. Given that very recent and ongoing genetic analysis is showing breeding between all three groups, very likely at different times and places, it’s quite possible that the lice we have now hopped from one group to another, even if they weren’t all wearing clothes all the time. Conversely, clothing may protect the environment from the clothing wearer, as with doctors wearing medical scrubs.

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It’s the kind of thing that archaeologists like me get put on the spot about when chatting to kids, and we love to have a crack at answering. Saturday’s “Ask a grown up” section featured just that question, from eight-year old Harriet, with an answer by Hadley Freemanfashion expert and fantastic writer. Hadley’s response was, as usual, entertainingly breezy, with some refreshing encouragement to Harriet to experiment in Cuf Clothing her own Cuf Clothing but, like a fine chiffon, it was a little flimsy in substance.

I’m proud to be involved with ScienceGrrlwhich aims to show girls that science is for everyone Cuf Clothing providing First Person Clothing role models, and TrowelBlazersa new project that is all about bringing to the fore the achievements Cuf Clothing pioneering women archaeologists, geologists and palaeontologists.

So I was kind of disappointed that a girl asking a genuine question about archaeology ended up with the barest of facts, as well as being told, even Cuf Clothing it was meant lightheartedly, that the grown-up answering her question would rather she pay attention to what she looks like. It’s this kind of response that can, in aggregate, have a negative impact on children: being mentally curious ends up as something deeply uncool and not relevant to modern life.

I’m not advocating force-feeding facts Vulcan-style when talking to young people — far from it. They like to be challenged and humour is a great way to do this. But I do think we should take every chance we get to pass on the incredible stuff that we’ve found out about our world thanks to science — including archaeology — and keep on showing girls that using their brains by asking big questions is, actually, absolutely fabulous.

So for Harriet, if you’re reading: there’s a whole lot we know about the invention of clothing. Many TV reconstructions and book illustrations of stone age Palaeolithic people really don’t do them justice. People were already making finely worked bone needles 20, years ago, probably for embroidery as much as sewing animal skins, like Cuf Clothing thousands of ivory beads and fox teeth that covered the bodies of a girl and a boy buried at Sunghir, Russia, around 28, Cuf Clothing ago.

This was some serious bling, representing years of accumulated work. And — caveman stereotypes aside — stone age clothes weren’t just animal skins. We’ve known since the s that people were weaving fabric back then, revealed by impressions in baked clay from the sites of Pavlov and Dolni Vestonice in the Czech Republic. We don’t Cuf Clothing know for sure that these were used for clothes, but the materials weren’t heavy duty, and the variety in weaving styles suggests a long tradition.

And at Dzudzuana Cave in Georgia30, year old spun plant Cuf Clothing were found which had been dyed: pink, black and turquoise blue! But what Cuf Clothing the really old stuff because 30, years ago isn’t really old in human evolution?

As Harriet asks, who were the first fashionistas? People are still debating what, if anything, our close relatives the Neanderthals were wearing. Neanderthals lived in Europe for much longer than our own species, and for some of that time, it really was an ice-blasted world. Research into how mammals — including humans — keep their body temperature at healthy levels suggests that even during the warmer parts of the last ice age, they would have needed decent body coverings.

Skins thrown over their shoulders — Palaeo-pashminas? Another study looked at what modern day hunter-gatherers wear according…

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Shelter usually reduces the functional need for clothing. The History of Clothing. In many societies, norms about clothing reflect standards of modesty, religion, gender, and social status. So for Harriet, if you’re reading: there’s a whole lot we know about the invention of clothing.

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