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You Can't Go More Vintage Than World's Oldest Known Dress From More Than 5,000 Years Ago

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Throughout history, the ancient Egyptians have been known to be very particular when it comes to the fashion that goes into their attires. From flowing dresses, shiny jewelry and ornate headdresses, these dwellers near the Nile sure knew how to dress for success.

One item of clothing from the period has managed to survive wear and tear for more than 5,000 years. While it was first thought to be just another piece of ragged clothing, a closer examination of the garment proved that it was a major archaeological find.

The discovery of the antique garment called Tarkhan dress, which has been named after the ancient burial ground where it was recovered, is considered to be a rarity in archaeology. Early pieces of clothing were usually made from various animal skins and plant fibers that made them more likely to deteriorate over the years.

Alice Stevenson, curator of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology in the United Kingdom that led the analysis of the dress, explained that many of the garments and other textiles that researchers typically dig up are only 2,000 years old. Garments as old as the Tarkhan dress were often recovered from the bodies of their owners.

What makes this particular dress different from other ancient garments is that it is considered to be a very early form of haute couture. Its V-neck design, narrow pleats and tailored sleeves make it a more fitting display at a couturier's boutique, or at least an ancient version of such establishments.

Researchers believe the fine detail and craftsmanship of the dress could only be the handiwork of a highly skilled person. Such individuals did exist in ancient Egypt, when the kingdom was governed by a single ruler some 5,000 years ago. The period was known in history as a time of great prosperity for the country.

The archaeologists found evidence on the antique dress, such as creases at the armpits and elbows, which suggests that it has been worn by someone at least once during its time.

Discovery Of The Tarkhan Dress

When Egyptologist W.M. Flinders Petrie and his team unearthed the Tarkhan dress from an ancient tomb in 1913, the garment was bundled with other pieces of ragged clothing. While Petrie already had a hunch that the bundle could hide something of great value, it wasn't until 1977 that the well-preserved dress was discovered.

The Tarkhan dress appears to be a tattered shirt today, but Stevenson believes it could have been longer, much like how other dresses in ancient Egypt looked at the time. It is also likely that only rich people could afford to wear the dress.

Jana Jones, a researcher at Macquarie University in Australia, said that tombstones made during the same time as the Tarkhan dress feature depictions of people wearing similar attire.

She added that the hieroglyph early Egyptians used to denote "dress" also appear on the list of items they bring with them when they depart for the afterlife. Other important items on the list include food and cosmetics.

The findings of the Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology study regarding the dress are featured in the journal Antiquity.

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