Discovering Ancient Clothes

The Historical Evolution of Iranian Clothing before Islam 

Author: Mehrassa Gheibi/ Translated by: Arineh Minasian/ Photo by: Pouran Zangeneh

Words like ‘costume’ are often associated with the colourful world of patterns and designs. The history of clothing also involves diversity and a rush of colours. Like all human inventions, clothing is created in response to demand. The indispensability of clothing has contributed to its important role in human history.

Clothing has always been interpreted in relation to human beings, a fact which has given more depth and importance to it, meaning we understand it as more than mere patterns and colours on cloth. Initially, clothing met the demands of human beings. With the passage of time, historical transformations have imparted other roles to clothing as well, bringing us to today’s world of colours and patterns. The transformation of clothing in Iran, as elsewhere, has been propelled by historical events, climate, geography and the progress of human civilisation. This is why the history of clothing should be studied with relation to the dynasties that have ruled over the country.

Early Evidence

The carved representation of a man on the handle of a knife appears to show the man wearing Eskimo-style clothing. This first evidence of Iranians using animal skin and fur for clothing, dates to seven thousand years ago. The earliest communities inhabited the Iranian Plateau during the period 10,000–15,000 BCE. A lack of archaeological finds may indicate that in some parts of Iran clothing was not used until 6000 BCE. Increased hunting resulted in changes to clothing because increased access to animal skin allowed for clothing to be produced beyond basic human need.

The Elamites

A large bronze bowl bearing an inscription in the Elamite language naming Kidin-Hutran, son of Kurlush, which was discovered in a tomb at Arjān near Behbahan in southwestern Iran and was part of a late Neo-Elamite royal burial (c. 630–550 BCE), indicates the diversity of clothing in this era…

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