Dress Like An Egyptian: The oldest woven dress comes from Egypt, and it is 5,000 years old


The world’s oldest woven dress dates back to around 3,482 BC, a new study has revealed. The “Tarkhan Dress”, which now looks more like a stained and tattered shirt, has been identified as Egypt’s oldest garment as well as the oldest surviving piece of woven clothing in the entire world. The researchers have also discovered what appears to be the first tavern ever built in France. According to the archaeologists, the new discoveries help enhance our understanding of life in ancient Egypt and France thousands of years ago.

Despite its current decrepit state, the “Tarkhan Dress”, the researchers point out, was once a fashionable linen garment, featuring knife-pleated sleeves and bodice with a naturally-beautiful pale grey stripped design. The lower part of the dress is missing, which is why its original length is currently unknown. Speaking about the find, recently published in the Antiquity journal, Alice Stevenson of the University College London said:

The survival of highly perishable textiles in the archaeological record is exceptional, the survival of complete, or almost complete, articles of clothing like the Tarkhan Dress is even more remarkable. We’ve always suspected that the dress dated from the First Dynasty, but haven’t been able to confirm this as the sample previously needed for testing would have caused too much damage to the dress.


To determine the age of the dress, which is currently kept at the UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, a group led by Oxford University researcher Michael Dee analysed a small sample of the garment, in an attempt to measure the amount of radiocarbon (a particular radioactive isotope of carbon) still present in the linen. Made of flax fibers, linen is relatively easy to test via radiocarbon dating. According to the team, the dress contains signs of wear and tear dating back to when it was still new, and was likely worn by a teenager or maybe a very slim woman.

As a part of a separate study, also reported in the Antiquity journal, researchers have successfully identified what appears to be the oldest tavern in France. Built in 125 BC ago at Lattara in southern France, the now-dilapidated structure was initially thought to be the remains of a bakery, because of evidence that suggests the site once housed three large ovens as well as indoor gristmills. Upon closer examination, however, the team found the remains of another room with bench linings along its walls. The group, led by Benjamin Luley of Gettysburg College and Gaël Piquès of the University of Montpellier, said:

Not only is the tavern the earliest of its kind in the region, it also serves as an invaluable indicator of the changing social and economic infrastructure of the settlement and its inhabitants following the Roman conquest of Mediterranean Gaul in the late second century BC.

Excavation at the site has revealed bone fragments of fish, cattle and sheep, as well as pieces of bowls and platters. Among the remains, the archaeologists also discovered a charcoal-burning hearth, which was probably used for barbecuing meat. As the team points out, the 2,141-year-old Roman-style tavern is similar to the inns and roadside houses that were quite common in France during the Roman period.

The researchers have also unearthed what seems to be broken pieces of ceramic drinking vessels, mostly likely used for serving wine to the customers.

The article was originally published in our sister site HEXAPOLIS.

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