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3 June 2014
World's oldest trousers are Chinese

Two men whose remains were recently excavated from tombs in the Yanghai graveyard of western China's Tarim Basin were nomadic herders sometime between 3,300 and 3,000 years ago, making their trousers the oldest known examples of this innovative apparel.
     The two were roughly 40 years old and had probably been warriors as well as herders. One was buried with a decorated leather bridle, a wooden horse bit, a battle-ax and a leather bracer for arm protection. Among objects placed with the other were a whip, a decorated horse tail, a bow sheath and a bow.
     Their ancient trousers resemble modern riding breeches, with straight-fitting legs and a wide crotch. Each was sewn from three pieces of brown-coloured woollen cloth - one for each leg, plus an insert for the crotch - shaped on a loom in the final size. The finished product included side slits, strings for fastening at the waist, and woven designs on the legs.
     The discoveries support previous work suggesting that nomadic herders in Central Asia invented trousers to provide bodily protection and freedom of movement for horseback journeys and mounted warfare. Previously, Europeans and Asians wore gowns, robes, tunics, togas or - as did Oetzi the Iceman 5,300 years ago - a loincloth and individual leggings.
     "This new paper definitely supports the idea that trousers were invented for horse riding by mobile pastoralists, and that trousers were brought to the Tarim Basin by horse-riding peoples," remarks linguist and China authority Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania (USA).
     Mair suspects that horse riding began about 3,400 years ago, and trouser-making came shortly thereafter in wetter regions to the north and west of the Tarim Basin, though examples from those areas are not likely to have been preserved.
     The excavation team - led by archaeologists Ulrike Beck and Mayke Wagner of the German Archaeological Institute in Berlin - calls the ancient invention of trousers "a ground-breaking achievement in the history of cloth making."

Edited from Science News (30 May 2014)

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