Fashion began 1.2 lakh years ago, scientists find evidence in Morocco

Excavation

When we hear the word fashion, the first thought that pops into our minds is Paris, the capital of innovation in clothes, style and branding. But that’s the modern era, researchers have long pondered about the question of the invention of clothing, and the development of the tools needed to create it, which are watershed moments in human evolution.

Researchers have now found evidence of clothing and attire in Morocco dating back to 1,20,000 years ago.

The earliest evidence of humans using clothes has been found in a cave in Morocco with researchers finding tools and bones made from skinned animals. They believe that bone tools were likely used for leather and fur working, and other activities and the bones were skinned for fur removal.

The research published in iScience also records the use of a marine mammal tooth by early humans and hints that the pan-African emergence of complex culture included the use of multiple and diverse materials for specialised tool manufacturing.

CLOTHING REQUIRED FOR EXPANSION OF HOMO SAPIENS

Led by Emily Y Hallett of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, the team identified an innovative approach by the early Humans settled in Africa indicating that they might have a wardrobe of their own. The team reports that clothing and fur were likely necessary for the expansion of Homo sapiens into cold habitats during the Pleistocene period (began about 2.6 million years ago and lasted until about 11,700 years ago). However, fur and other organic clothing materials are extremely unlikely to be preserved in the fossil record.

© Provided by India Today Carnivores were skinned for fur and bone tools were then used to prepare the furs into pelts. (Photo: Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History/Jacopo Niccolò Cerasoni 2021)

The first signs of origin for clothing, by studies of genetic lice, had shown that it began around 170,000 years ago. “The combination of carnivore bones with skinning marks and bone tools likely used for fur processing provide highly suggestive proxy evidence for the earliest clothing in the archaeological record,” the paper said.

The team found roughly 12,000 bone fragments from more than 60 animal bones that had been shaped by humans for use as tools. They identified a pattern of cut marks on the carnivore bones suggesting that, rather than processing them for meat, the occupants of Contrebandiers Cave were skinning them for fur.

“The combination of carnivore bones with skinning marks and bone tools likely used for fur processing provide highly suggestive proxy evidence for the earliest clothing in the archaeological record. But, given the level of specialisation in this assemblage, these tools are likely part of a larger tradition with earlier examples that haven’t yet been found,” Hallett said.

EARLIEST TOOLS SHAPED FROM MARINE MAMMAL

Researchers also found bone fragments from the tip of a tooth from a whale or dolphin, which had marks consistent with use as a pressure flaker (a tool used for shaping stone tools). The Institute in a statement said that given the age of the discovery this represents the earliest documented use of a marine mammal tooth by humans and the only verified marine mammal remains from the Pleistocene of North Africa.

“The Contrebandiers Cave bone tools demonstrate that by roughly 1,20,000 years ago, Homo sapiens began to intensify the use of bone to make formal tools and use them for specific tasks, including leather and fur working,” Hallett summarized.

She added that this versatility appears to be at the root of our species, and not a characteristic that emerged after expansions into Eurasia.

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