On the Origin of Clothing

22 09 2010

Put cloth on them!

Hey, did you guys get your latest issue of Molecular Biology and Evolution? Mine came with a mix CD of Peanut Butter Wolf and Mad Lib tracks.

Anyway, the latest issue features a paper that aims to tell the true story of our first fig leaf.

There’s a fascinating piece in it that seeks to pinpoint the origin of clothing on anatomically modern humans (homo sapiens sapiens). This is of interest because it will give a clearer picture of when humanity was capable of moving out of Africa and into more challenging climates. Evolutionary scientists are using the DNA of lice to build their hypotheses, by figuring out when the modern clothing louse speciated from the head or hair louse. Their estimate? As late as “83,000 and possibly as early as 170,000” years ago. Given humanity’s origins of 300,000 to 600,000 years ago, that makes our development of clothing fairly early in our history.

Andrew Kitchen of Pennsylvania State University helped pioneer this field of study, and, it goes without saying, there are competing estimates for the origin of clothing.


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