What do you know about prehistoric dress or costume?

Discuss about the costume of Stone Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age.


Answer: The term ‘Prehistoric Era’ is used to describe the time when the first civilization or humans evolved. It is believed that the Prehistoric Era has originated in between 200000 B.C. to 3500 – 2500 B.C., and the very first humans in India are believed to evolve in between 200000 B.C. and 40000 B.C.

The Prehistoric Era has been divided into six major ages which are Stone Age, Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age, Neolithic Age, Bronze Age and Iron Age. All these six major ages are now described in brief below:

Stone Age:

Stone Age is the name given to the period when the humans begun to use stones for various purposes. The Stone Age is broadly divided into the three different ages which are the Paleolithic Age, Mesolithic Age and the Neolithic Age. This classification is based on the type and form of the stone tools, which were used during that particular time.


Dress or Costume of Stone Age:

Stone Age people wore garments made from animal fur and leather (from mammoths, saber tooth tigers and sloths). Some tied the piece of animal skin around their waist while others simply sling skins over their shoulders. Some of the late Stone Age (Neolithic) people wove wool and linen garments that were in different colours such as pink and turquoise.


Bronze Age Costume:

By the time of the Bronze Age, people had learned how to weave wool into cloth so that their clothes became a little more sophisticated than the rough skins worn by many of their ancestors. Most men wore a tunic, leggings and a cloak as well as jewellery in the shape of cloak fasteners and bracelets. The rich had finer clothes and wore many ornaments of rings and bracelets. There are also many examples of cloak fasteners made from precious metals. Razors have been found and would seem to indicate that the men were clean shaven.


Bronze Age Foot wear

Shoe constructed from one single piece of hair-on skin. The uppers are gathered in pleats around the toes and there is a vertical seam at the heel. The shoes are cut from the skins so that the pile of the hair on the sole is facing in the “wrong” direction which has an anti-slip-effect when walking. Increased durability and comfort thanks to the additional 3.5mm(1/7in) tough leather sole fixed inside, resulting in a total thickness of 6mm in the sole-area.


Bronze Age Ornaments:

The Bronze Age can be split into three periods; Early Bronze Age (3500-2200 BC), Middle Bronze Age (2200-1550 BC), and Late Bronze Age (1550-1200 BC).Metalsmiths in the Bronze Age developed an astonishingly high level of skill in bronze and gold working and used twisting and forging methods to make wrist and neck torques.

Towards the final stages of the Early Bronze Age and the start of the Middle Bronze Age, a new type of jewellery appeared in the Budapest region. This new jewellery included rings which were not complete bands as they are today, but instead had twisted ends. Other types of jewellery included spiral necklaces, and corkscrew and half-moon styled earrings. The spread of jewellery along the Danube area helps confirm the formation of the trade route of the Early Bronze Age. From this jewellery, mostly found in Bronze Age graves, it has been possible to reconstruct what was fashionable in the Middle Bronze Age.

In 2005 a discovery of a shipwreck off the coast of Salcombe in Devon shed new light on Britain’s overseas ancient trade. Whilst the ship itself had rotted, gold and bronze jewellery was discovered in excellent condition.


Iron Age Costume:

Very few clothes have been preserved from Iron Age Britain, so we know little about the clothes that people wore at this time. Clothes made from wool, linen, skin or leather are preserved only in particular kinds of wet, cold or dry conditions. In Britain, archaeologists do not normally find clothes preserved on the sites of Iron Age farms and villages. All that normally survives are some of the tools needed to make clothes, and the pins, brooches and other ornaments that Iron Age people used to hold their clothes together or for show.


The types of clothes Iron Age Britons were likely to have worn can be inferred from rare discoveries from other parts of Europe, and from descriptions and pictures of Iron Age peoples made by the Romans who met these ‘barbarians’.

It is likely that women wore a simple, long, sleeveless dress, possibly a simple tube of cloth pinned or sewn together at the shoulders. This might have been worn over a blouse or shirt. Men had been wearing trousers in northern and western Europe since the Late Bronze Age when horse riding became common and these would have been worn along with a shirt. Both sexes would have also worn cloaks.

These clothes were made from woven wool and sometimes from linen made from flax. The range of colours available to die these fabrics was very limited – brown, reds, green and blue. Rarely found items of clothing indicate the types and quality of the weaves used. Another source of information comes from impressions of textiles preserved in rust. Clothing buried next to a metal object sometimes leaves an impression of the weave preserved in the corrosion.

Leather was being made at this time. This and other animal hides could have been used for clothes, caps and for shoes. Sheep skin could also be used to make clothing, especially cloaks. Wild animal fur and the feathers from birds were also used for clothing or for decoration.

Footwear of Iron Age



Ornaments of Iron Age

Archaeologists have found many examples of elaborate personal ornaments worn by the Late Iron Age elite (100 BC-AD 50). Some examples are given below: