See the World’s Oldest Dress

WORLD

A 5,000-year-old Egyptian garment provides a glimpse into the fashions of yester-yester-yesteryear. (Nat Geo News)

Take a look to see how another Egyptian—Tutankhamun—used linen clothing.

Educators, scroll down for a quick list of key resources—including today’s MapMaker Interactive map and a 5,000-year-old sewing pattern.

Only the top portion of the elaborately pleated Tarkhan dress survives. It’s more than 5,000 years old—how has your oldest piece of clothing held up? Photograph courtesy of UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

Only the top portion of the elaborately pleated Tarkhan dress survives. It’s more than 5,000 years old—how has your oldest piece of clothing held up?
Photograph courtesy of UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

Discussion Ideas

  • The Nat Geo News article reports on the remarkable age of the Tarkhan dress. Why does the garment have that name?
    • The garment was excavated from the Tarkhan cemeteries, ancient burial grounds about 50 kilometers (31 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt. (Here’s a simple locator map.) A team led by British archaeologist W.M. Flinders Petrie unearthed the dress in 1912-1913, although it was not identified as anything other than “a great pile of linen cloth” until 1977. The garment’s date was only verified this year.

 

 

 

Use today’s MapMaker Interactive timeline map to put the Tarkhan dress in historic perspective.

Use today’s MapMaker Interactive timeline map to put the Tarkhan dress in historic perspective.

  • If linen was so popular in ancient Egypt, what makes the Tarkhan dress so special?
    • It’s 5,000 years old! Linen fabric is incredibly delicate and perishable. Most ancient Egyptian linens have simply disintegrated, and the pieces that remain are usually scraps of fabric, not intact items of clothing.

 

  • The Nat Geo News article says the Tarkhan dress was an example of ancient couture clothing. How do we know this?
    • According to Nat Geo News, “With its tailored sleeves, V-neck, and narrow pleats, it would look perfectly at home in a modern department store. Such fine detail could only have been turned out by a specialized craftsperson.”

 

 

TEACHERS’ TOOLKIT

Nat Geo: See the World’s Oldest Dress

Nat Geo: Tut’s Gloves photo

Antiquity: Confirmation of the world’s oldest woven garment: the Tarkhan Dress

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology: Tarkhan dress (includes instructions for making one yourself—what a great Halloween costume!)

Harvard Gazette: Oldest-known fibers to be used by humans discovered

ScienceNews: First pants worn by horse riders 3,000 years ago

Nat Geo: Modern Life of a Bronze Age Woman

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