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Early humans were picky dressers

Credit: Institute for Mummies and the Iceman

Ancient clothing is rarely preserved, but two independent teams have discovered what early humans wore to cope with the cold European weather.

Mark Collard at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, Canada, and his colleagues compared the animals that modern indigenous groups used to make cold-weather clothing with the bone types found at early human and Neanderthal sites. Remains from animals with fur, such as foxes and rabbits, were more common at early-human sites, whereas bones from deer, bovids and several other animals were found at both types of site equally. This suggests that early humans used fur to sew specialized cold-weather apparel, but that Neanderthals relied on simpler animal-skin capes, the authors say.

In a separate paper, Niall O'Sullivan at the Institute for Mummies and the Iceman in Bolzano, Italy, and his team sequenced mitochondrial DNA from garments worn by Ötzi, the 5,300-year-old ice mummy. His coat, leggings (pictured left) and loincloth were made from the skins of domestic cattle, sheep and goats, whereas his hat and quiver (pictured right) used brown-bear fur and roe-deer skin.

J. Anthropol. Archaeol. (2016); Sci. Rep. 6, 31279 (2016)

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Early humans were picky dressers. Nature 536, 377 (2016).

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