26 March 2006
Iran: prehistoric fashion center?
Stylish clothing, jewelry, makeup and textiles, all dating to 5,000 years ago, have been unearthed in Iran, according to recent reports issued by the Circle of Ancient Iranian Studies and the Cultural Heritage News Agency of Iran.
Archaeologists there suspect that a state-of-the-art textile industry thrived in ancient Iran, which may have influenced the clothing styles of other regions. Many related artifacts were found in women's graves located at a site called Burnt City, in the Sistan va Baluchistan province of southeastern Iran.
"An eye liner bowl, a comb, a makeup box, a marble device for applying eye liner, along with some jewelry, were dug out from the grave of an 18-year-old wealthy woman," said Mansour Sajjadi, who continues to lead the archaeological team at the site. He added, "They also used to wear gem necklaces and bracelets, all considered chic masterpieces 5,000 years ago."
Sajjadi and his team unearthed dresses dating to that early period. The dresses resemble the draped cloth saris worn by modern-day Indian and Pakistani women, according to the scientists. In the past and even today, many men in these countries donned similar draped garments, which, unlike the women's versions, sometimes just cover one shoulder, leaving much of the chest area bare. The Burnt City researchers also recently found what is being described as "the most complete prehistoric cloth collection in Iran." Enormous pieces of cloth were found in an apparent 3,000 BCE workshop, which also contains storage cubbyholes, clays and evidence of clay stamps.
"One of the things that has been found abundantly in Burnt City is pieces of cloths in small storage rooms, never seen before in any other historic places of Iran," said Sajjadi. "We still don't know what exactly was stored in these rooms... 50 kinds of cloths in this large collection have been identified by now, and we are currently in the process of making a bilingual catalogue in which more information about these cloths will be available to others who wish to learn more details about them"
P. Oktor Skjaervo is the Aga Khan Professor of Iranian at Harvard University. He recently analyzed a book called the 'Avesta,' which is an ancient sacred text of Zoroastrianism, a monotheistic religion that once was the official religion of Persia, a former empire in southern Asia that included Iran and was toppled by Alexander the Great in the 4th century BCE. Skjaervo said that while the actual manufacturing of clothes was not described in the book, it contained references to skins and woven cloths. There was even a word similar to 'artisan,' which then meant 'he or she who makes good weaving.' He also indicated that the prehistoric Persians did not skimp on jewelry or materials.
"Female finery included broaches and ear hangs, some of them four-sided," Skjaervo explained. "Materials used for making implements included horn, wood (or plants), and metals, among them silver, gold, bronze and iron. Gold was also used to decorate horse gear, breast plates, knives, helmets, wheels, shoes, belts and broaches." Women at the time were also not just interested in clothing. The Burnt City archaeologists found clay stamps bearing family insignias in many women's graves. The stamps, they suggest, were used to mark goods and other personal possessions. Sajjadi concluded that "it can safely be said that women were in charge of controlling the economy of their families."
Source: Travel Channel News (20 March 2006)