We already wore color in prehistoric times, show this ‘excavated’ dress


What did people wear in prehistoric times? Brown, jute-like clothing might be what you think of, but we also wore bright colors 3000 years ago, Dutch scientists discovered.

Based on original textile remains dating back to around 800 BC, they have reconstructed a dress that must have been worn in the early Iron Age. The garment was bright red and blue, the study shows. An important discovery.

The textile remains were found in 2011 in a grave in a prehistoric cemetery near Uden. “It was a fairly normal excavation, until we suddenly found a rectangular pit,” says archaeologist Richard Jansen, involved in the discovery.

“After much discussion, we chose to go down layer by layer. When we got to the bottom level, a corpse silhouette started to form in the underground. The skeleton had decayed but we could still see the discoloration very well. Very special, because at that time people were actually all cremated and not buried.”

In addition to textile remains, a number of jewelry was also found in the grave with which the person, probably a woman, was buried. Including three bronze bracelets, two bronze anklets, and a toiletry set with a nail scraper and tweezers.

“She was a lady of high status,” says archaeologist Sasja van der Vaart-Verschoof, who is affiliated with the National Museum of Antiquities. “Nobody at all, as far as we know, had this combination of special objects.”

You have to compare this dress to a Chanel suit, so much work goes into it.

Yvonne Lammers, archaeologist

The textile remains make the grave of international importance, according to van der Vaart-Verschoof. “Textile actually never survives in the ground. The fact that we still have it in our hands after 3000 years is because the textile was around the bracelets and anklets. The bronze has started to rust, which affects the fabric. That is how it has been preserved stayed.”

“What makes it even more special is that we can see which pattern the dress was woven in, so which threads were red and which threads were blue. We can see that they are woven in a block pattern that is very familiar to us.”

Yvonne Lammers, archaeologist and head of the prehistoric village in Eindhoven, reconstructed the dress with the help of volunteers. “We actually know quite a lot about Iron Age people: that they were farmers with fields and animals, that they were self-sufficient in everything. That they used wool and linen, that they could spin, what weaving techniques they had. But this is not an everyday occurrence. dress, you have to compare it to a Chanel suit, so much work goes into it.”

In this video you can see how Van der Vaart-Verschoof and her colleagues discovered that the brown textile remnants were actually red-blue checked and you can see how the researchers reconstructed the dress, for example by spinning ten kilometers of yarn:

‘We called textile nerds ‘eureka!’ from this piece of rust.

As far as Lammers is concerned, the find will have consequences for the clothing of the volunteers in the museum. “Many visitors to our museum have the idea that the stirring was in the brown stuff: brown dresses, brown houses, brown pots. If you can show that these were indeed very educated people who really valued how they looked , then she makes that a very different kind of people.”

The reconstructed dress, the original textile remains, the jewelery and the toiletry set can be seen in the Jan Cunen museum in Oss until 16 January.

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