A tattered piece of clothing has been found buried in an Egyptian cemetery and it has been confirmed as the world’s oldest dress as well as the oldest woven garment known to archaeologists. The garment has now officially been dated by researchers to between 5,100 and 5,500 years old. That places it way back to the first dynasty of ancient Egypt, and possibly even earlier.
The dress was originally discovered in 1912 in a cemetery near Cairo but it was dismissed as a great pile of linen cloth. But a new radiocarbon analysis has finally confirmed the item’s antiquity. The garment features tailored sleeves, a V-neck, and narrow pleats. It also exhibits signs of wear and tear, which means it was used in real life and was not some sort of fancy ornamentation. There are strong signs the dress was worn by the elite.
The dress remains the earliest surviving example of complex woven clothing, that is, a cut, fitted and tailored garment as opposed to one that was draped or wrapped. The survival of highly perishable textiles in the archaeological record is exceptional, and the survival of complete, or almost complete, articles of clothing even more so.