Stone Age Clothes

A Stone Age (Paleolithic) woman worked on a mammoth hide to prepare it to be used as clothing or a blanket. After scraping the meat off of the hide, she rubbed the animal’s brains on the hide to “tan” it. Tanning is a process, still used today, by which animal hides are preserved and turned into leather. Tanned hides last much longer than untanned ones. Bone or antler was used to make pins that could hold animal hides together for use as clothing.

Another Stone Age woman sat by the campfire spinning flax fiber that she gathered from wild plants that day. After spinning the fibers and dying them, she will make flax fiber clothing for her clan. Flax is a plant, and cloth made from its fibers is commonly referred to as linen. Based on archaeological evidence, flax fibers were used by Paleolithic people by at least 35,000 years ago.

The two imagined Stone Age women described above were making clothes from things available to them in their environment. Paleolithic clothing was generally animal hide or fiber based, if it was worn at all. As Stone Age people’s nomadic lifestyle took them further from the equator, clothes became essential to protect them in colder and harsher climates.

As the Paleolithic advanced to the Neolithic (New Stone Age) people began to domesticate (tame) plants and animals. During this period, wool clothing, and fibers harvested from planted crops were made into clothes. Wool could be spun and then woven, but earlier societies probably used felting to make felt material made from wool. When fibers are felted, they are pressed together in layers, sometimes wet, sometimes not, until the fibers become one piece of felt. The felt can then be dyed, cut, and made into clothing.