When did humans start wearing clothes? Discovery in a Moroccan cave sheds some light

Fur, leather, and other organic materials are generally not preserved, especially from 100,000 years ago. However, researchers say 62 bone tools used to treat and smooth animal hides found in a cave in Morocco may be some of the oldest proxy evidence of clothing in the archaeological record. The tools are between 90,000 and 120,000 years old.

“I wasn’t expecting to find them. I was initially studying this group to look at animal bones to reconstruct the human diet,” said Emily Yoko Hallet, a postdoctoral scientist at the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History in Pan Africa. Evolution Research Group.

And when I crossed them, – There were about 12,000 animal bones – I began to notice that these bones have a completely different shape. It was not a normal shape. “And they had sheen, they were glossy, and they had streaks (grooves or dents),” said Hallett, who was the author of a study about the findings published Thursday in the journal iScience.

Unlike bones that are discarded after an animal has eaten, bones that are regularly used by human hands acquire a luster and polish.

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She also found a pattern of cut marks on other bones in the cave indicating that the humans who lived there were removing the skins of carnivores such as sand foxes, golden jackals, and wild cats, for their fur. The bones of the animals resembling cattle showed various signs, indicating that they were processed for meat.

“I’m very excited about the skin tags on carnivores, because I’ve never seen this pattern described before. I hope archaeologists working on much older sites will start looking for this pattern,” she said.

It’s hard to know when the clothes started to be used. It’s very likely that early humans like Neanderthals who lived in cold climates long before Homo sapiens arrived on the scene had clothing to protect themselves from inclement weather, but there isn’t much solid evidence.

Genetic studies of lice indicate that clothing lice diverged from the ancestors of human head lice at least 83,000 years ago and possibly 170,000 years ago, suggesting that humans wore clothing before major migrations out of Africa.
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Hallett said one of the 98, 400,000-year-old tools made from elephant bones recently discovered in Italy may have been used to smooth leather. They were probably used by Neanderthals. Eye needles appear in the archaeological record much later, about 40,000 years ago.

orthopedic tools From Morocco discovered by Hallet it was shaped somewhat like a spoon and could have been used to remove connective tissue. Some leatherworkers still use similar orthopedic tools to this day, Hallett said.

Hiding drying in the sun at Chouara Tannery in Fez, Morocco.  Some leather workers still use orthopedic tools today.

“The reason people like to use these tools is because they don’t penetrate the skin, so your skin remains intact,” she said.

Bone tools were found in Contrebandiers Cave on the Atlantic coast of Morocco. Hallett said the climate 120,000 years ago would have been temperate, as it is now, raising the possibility that early clothing was for decoration and protection. Stone Age fashion designers, anyone?

“There aren’t really extreme temperatures or extreme weather conditions there in the past or today. It makes me wonder if the clothes were purely utilitarian, were they symbolic, or were they a bit of both?”


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