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PREHISTORIC COSTUME

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The present state of knowledge about prehistoric times enables us, with all the necessary reservations, to assess the little data we possess about costume in the quaternary period of about six hundred thousand years, covering the history of tool-mak­ing man.

It is as well to remember from the outset that the develop­ment of prehistoric civilizations is influenced by the geography of the continents, which, though broadly as it is today, had numerous differences in detail, such as the land link between Britain and the continent of Europe.

The information we possess about prehistoric costume for the whole of the quaternary age is divided between the earlier, longer period (until about 10,000 bc) known as the Palaeolithic period, and the shorter, more recent Neolithic period, which lasted for a few thousand years and was followed by the Bronze and Iron Ages.

In spite of glacier movements, the general climate in the greater part of the ancient world was fairly constantly tropical or sub-tropical, comparable to the climate of present-day Africa or central Asia, and favouring a fauna of hippopotami and elephants. Only after the last Ice Age (100,000 to 10,000 bc) did the temperature of the northern hemisphere fall, causing changes in fauna and flora.

The various ways of life of these first men changed accord­ing to these climatic conditions, which also influenced cos­tume. Men in tropical regions lived in forests or on plains, in camps or shelters, and left traces of their clothing industries in the valleys and steppes. Men in the areas affected by the last glaciations took refuge in grottoes and caverns, where the vesti­ges of their primitive clothing are to be found.

Palaeolithic man lived by hunting and food collection; for him, the search for food entailed defending himself against animals, at first in tropical regions, and then in glacial con­ditions. Only towards 10,000 bc, when Europe was once more freed from ice and became covered with forests, was Neolithic man to find his food by agriculture and stock-breeding. This revolutionary change appeared first in the centre of the New World and in the Middle East, from where it spread through Asia.

Prehistoric civilizations therefore show a succession of changes of level, influenced by the prevailing climatic con­ditions, by increasing technical skills, and perhaps by changes in the physical type of primitive man.

These are the dominant factors which, in conditions that are often difficult to establish and are complicated by over­lapping and mixture, influenced the evolution of prehistoric costume.

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Date: 2015-12-11; view: 1005


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