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Primitive and Aboriginal Peoples
There is much difference of opinion about the chronology of the early periods in the story of mankind, but it is generally agreed that man first appeared at a very remote date, possibly 550,000 B.C. The oldest human-like remains within our knowledge is the Pithecanthropus erectus, found in Trinil, Java. The next stage in development is represented by the Homo Heidelbergensis and other human skeletal remains from Java, China, and Europe. Evidence from the Homo Neanderthalensis (c. 100,000-25,000 B.C.) indicates a new type of man who used numerous and diversified instruments of bone, finished with skill, and lived in caves and rock shelters. It is thought that he painted his body and possibly practiced tattooing, as well as fashioned materials for dress. This race, which disappeared quite suddenly, was replaced by a fourth type of man—the Cro-Magnon (c. 8000-4000 B.C.). From evidence which has been found the latter possessed a very different kind of culture and apparently had unusual artistic ability as shown in little bone implements, crude needles and coloring materials, the latter denoting a development in costume.
Paleolithic culture reached its peak in the last part of the Old Stone Age or Reindeer Period. In the Neolithic Period or New Stone Age, more highly developed men occupied Asia, Africa, and western Europe some 4000 years ago. They wore garments of skin and ornaments, and left us important contributions from their culture: the bow and arrow, the boat form, the wheel, pottery making, and the art of weaving. Body painting and tattooing were popular. Necklaces of shells also date from this period.
The Bronze Age followed the Neolithic Age and continued from c. 3000-1000 B.C. These dates may vary greatly since in some locations the Bronze Age was not arrived at and in others this period was never terminated. Costume at this time was highly developed and accompanied by beautiful accessories.
Our knowledge of the clothing of primitive man may be obtained through archaeological evidence, and from peoples living under like conditions at the present time.
Less than a hundred years after Columbus discovered America, John White recorded in water color paintings the life of the Indians on the Carolina coast, and Jacques Le Moyne, a Frenchman, made memory sketches of Florida, after he returned to England. These records give an excellent idea of the primitive costume of the North American Indian.
Opinions vary in regard to the origin of clothing, but the most important may be classified: (1) as a protection against the elements; (2) to satisfy the aesthetic sense; (3) as an expression of modesty.
Exception has been found to the first theory. Nude natives have been seen in cold climates with sleet frozen on their bodies. The natives in the extreme south of South America wear very little clothing.
Throughout centuries man has justified decorating himself in various ways in order to attract the opposite sex. The owner of a bear's-tooth necklace, for example, was able to attract the object of his affection, not only because the teeth were thought beautiful, but also because possession of such a necklace signified bravery. He would be considered a valiant man and be recognized as a good provider.
There are arguments against modesty as a reason for donning clothing. Tribes that wear the most clothing are not necessarily the most modest. The costumes of some tribes show the marital status of the individual, such as skirts of coconut leaves worn by Yap women of the Caroline Islands and the longer skirts of the Indian women of Chichicastenango, Guatemala.
As the centuries of various costume unfold before us we are impressed with the repetition of certain costumes and new accessories suggested by those of ancient times. Permanent waving and straightening of the hair, in common use now, was considered an innovation a number of years ago, although these arts had been practiced by women for centuries. The primitive hairdresser when straightening hair used about two hundred sticks and a bowl containing paste made of black powder mixed with an oleaginous substance. First, the operator took a strand of hair, stretched it out to the length of a stick and then rolled the two between the palms of the hands. The application of paste caused the hair to adhere to the stick, and after drying, to be straighter.
The position of woman in primitive cultures is usually that of homemaker. She often has a servile attitude toward her husband, sometimes helping him in the field. At other times, she may take charge of the financial affairs of the house and make decisions in important transactions. In one Indian tribe in the southwestern part of the United States, the wife asserts her authority by placing her husband's belongings outside of the door when she has become tired of him and does not wish to have him around the house any more.
Primitive man is an excellent hunter and often a very good agriculturist. He is accomplished in the handicrafts; the man of an Indian tribe in Guatemala does the expert weaving and embroidering and works with woolen fabrics, whereas the woman weaves only cotton.
The costume historian is never surprised to find a counterpart of a costume of today in an illustration of primitive man in Africa, Australia, or other parts of the world, the difference being that the higher the stage of development, the greater the variety of costumes, and the greater the individual freedom with which they are worn.
a. Sources of information: tomb relics and frescoes, statues and statuettes of ancient tribes; present-day tribes.
b. MEN AND WOMEN
(PEOPLES OF WARM CLIMATE)
Outer upper and outer lower:body painting and tattooing by light colored tribes, scar-tattooing by dark-colored tribes; social standing shown by amount of tattooing used by Yap Islander and native of the Amazonian section; tattooing by Maoris of New Zealand, after first successful fight, a fresh design for each ensuing exploit; loose garment woven from fibre worn by Maoris; loin cloth; upper part of body nude; full skirt resembling broomstick skirt of 1945, or wraparound skirt, refajo, by Guatemalan Indian woman; huipil, used by Aztec, or Mayan woman.
(PEOPLES OF COLD CLIMATE)
Outer upper and outer lower: trousers usually worn by both man and woman; sometimes hide and skin sewed with bronze needle; wraparound skirt and simple upper garment with opening for head; fur skirt, having fur on inside or outside of garment sometimes sewed on linen or wool; poncho; clothing made from wool, skin of livestock, horse, sheep, goat or camel, by nomad of steppe region in western Turkistan; long skirt of feathered bird skin worn by man in Aleutian Islands, fur of seal or sea otter by woman; waterproof raincoat of seal intestine with decoration of feathers with drawstring on hood and at wrist, by man and woman of Aleutian Islands; rebozo worn by Mexican woman of the highlands; perraje used by Guatemalan Indian woman; capizaje, by Guatemalan Indian man.
2. Hair: woman's head sometimes shaven in British East Africa; elaborate arrangement used by some African women, twisted and plastered topknot or hundreds of hanging curls by Zulu woman; gum and mud mixture used in twisting hair into curls and unusual shapes, such as cockscomb spike and knob with an added decoration of cowrie shells and feathers; numerous permanent plaits solidified with palm oil and cornwood dye keeping them in place for several months, by some African tribes; hair oiled and buttered, then set in waves by Tigré woman; decorative coils by Nigerian woman; loose flowing hair sometimes symbol of mourning by Mayagasy woman; hair dressed over an elaborate wire frame by some tribes in Africa; elaborate hairdress used as carrying place for precious objects by messenger; braids and more simple hairdress usually worn in cold climates.
3. Headdress: simple headband of animal skin; narrow band of iron later used as a symbol of royalty; various masks, insect-like mask with pendant tassels, worn with tunic of palm fibre, and helmet when initiating young man to manhood, by South Kukuruku in Africa; white headband used to attract object of affection; shawl worn as head covering; fur turban by man in cold climate; feathers by various Indian tribes; tzut worn by Guatemalan Indian man.
4. Footwear: woman usually barefoot; man often barefoot; sandal; low shoe or moccasin by man or woman; fur stocking and leather boot in Fox Islands; fur-lined boots worn in cold climates, also soles of shoes made especially for walking on ice; stocking of woven grass and salmon skin by Eskimo; zapato worn by Guatemalan Indian man; huarache worn by Mexican Indian.
5. Accessories:faja worn by Guatemalan Indian woman; walking stick; ceremonial mask; torque or twisted rod of gold as mark of dignity; baldrick; hairpins; buttons; feathers worn as decoration by Indian tribes; beaded decorations, by Eskimo and Indian; fur gloves and mittens, by Eskimo.
6. Jewelry: amber worn as ornament in Neolithic times; intricate charm and amulet, sometimes of amber; shell, bone, teeth, polished stone, and bangled copper wire necklace; flint bracelet; earring; nose, ear, arm and leg ornaments; girdle of brass rings worn by Dyak woman of Borneo. Additional forms of jewelry found in this Chapter, Section 9.
7. Typical colors: many bright colors, in warmer climates: red sometimes used as symbol of blood of sacrifice, green, blue, yellow, orange, and sometimes purple, symbol of royalty; white used for war and black for mourning in north and west Australia, whereas white used for mourning in the south of that country; red used as symbol of mourning in some sections of Africa; red, brown, yellow, white, black, gray, and blue by Bushman; red, yellow, ochre, black and white and sometimes purple and salmon pink by Polynesian, tuft of red feathers indicating presence of Supreme Being; subdued colors of fur combined with bright colors in cold climates.
8. Typical Materials: bark cloth, the tapa cloth of the Hawaiian, the balassor cloth of the Polynesian; leaves; handwoven cloth of fibre, wool, cotton or linen; cloth decorated with embroidery; tassels and fringe; animal skin, ordinarily softened and made pliable, used by Indian tribes and the Eskimo; shoe of hide, wood, fibre or other plant products.
Body Painting: in hot climates, to ward off perils of warfare, evil spirits, illness, and death; to prevent excess sleeping (a superstition of the Moroccan man); as an aid in obtaining food; for courtship; during funeral rites; also coconut and palm oils used as protection from burning rays of sun.
Decoration and mutilation:
Lips: huge disks inserted; piece of wood put through wife's lip as symbol of husband's authority by Saras-djingas; labret worn in perforation of lip and cheek by Eskimo.
Teeth: filed to a point; blackened in order not to resemble teeth of a dog; sometimes two upper teeth knocked out during a special initiation ceremony in Australia.
Nose: ivory nose plug worn by members of some tribes in Africa; quills, beads, plugs and rings inserted in nose among some Eskimo tribes; nose ring through one nostril worn by tribesman in South America, by woman of the Sudan, by Zouia child; wedding ring in nose of woman to distinguish social rank; porcupine quills pulled through nostrils, fashionable in French Equatorial Africa; broken, flattened nose of Polynesian distinguished him from European with unbroken nose, called "canoe nose" by natives.
Eyes: crossed eyes considered beautiful by ancient Mayan, ornament dangled on forehead helped to cause this defect.
Eyebrows: plucked by members of some African tribes so that they would not resemble the ostrich.
Ears: ear lobes weighted with an ornament in childhood, reaching to shoulder in adolescence, by members of some Peruvian tribes; weight or jampot in lobe of each ear by Kikuyu native; tooth earrings along edge of ear by members of some African tribes; rings in ear lobes worn by woman until death of husband in Masai tribe in British East Africa; ears sometimes pierced in several places by members of some Eskimo tribes.
Neck: series of brass rings around neck progressively added to increase its length by Padaung woman of the hill tribes of Burma; necklace of wire with copper bangles, wire coils, seeds, and beads.
Fingers: mutilated to show distinguished person of a certain profession in an Australian tribe; finger cut off as a sign of mourning or cure for illness by Bushman, Hottentot, and Kaffir.
Legs: huge anklet plates used by tribesman of African tribe, also bands of brass or other metal.
Designs of the huntsman from the Stone Age were evident; in the Bronze Age geometrical designs were used; and in the Iron Age motifs of birds and horses have been found. The designs used by various Indian groups of the United States and Mexico include the stylized human figure, deer, frog, monkey, bird, lizard, snake, bow, scalp, pine cone, seed-pod, cloud, cyclone, lightning, rain, scroll, moon, star, cross, crossed sticks, whirling sticks, sling shot. Among the most popular motifs in Guatemala are: double-headed eagle, stylized human figure, figure of girl, bat, gadfly, bee, wasp, peacock and turkey, deer, monkey, tiger, armadillo, sun, moon, star, cross, scroll, lightning, rain, fields, hills and trees, plumed serpent; designs of the Polynesian include geometric decorations named morning star, light of the sea, bloodstain or honey-sucker; very small realistic designs are used by Eskimo.
INFLUENCES ON LATER COSTUMES
Bustle, 1931 and 1940's, showed influence of certain African tribes; wraparound skirt, middle 1940's, developed from the primitive skirt, broomstick skirt also reflected influence of the Mayan Indian whose skirt is dampened and pulled into pleats and then dried; costume jewelry including that made with shells, from primitive jewelry; saddle bag, 1949-52; decoration on side of hose, 1949, might be compared to tattooing.CHAPTER 2
A dearth of rain forced the prehistoric ancestors of the Egyptians to desert the plains on either side of the Upper Nile. For thousands of years the watershed had provided a rich country, but when game became scarce due to lack of rainfall, these people abandoned the life of the hunter, became agriculturists and settled down in the lower valley of the Nile. Since that time the Egyptians have been greatly influenced by this river.
The Egyptians made such progress in civilization that by 3500 B.C. they were producing stone vessels, decorated pottery, figurines carved of bone or ivory, or modeled in clay, and woven linen cloth. Finally, metal tools came into general use.
Economic developments also advanced political progress. Formerly divided among many small states, the people of Egypt now formed two clearly defined kingdoms—the Kingdom of Upper Egypt in the Nile valley in the south; and the Kingdom of Lower Egypt in the Delta at the north.
About 3000 B.C., after bitter wars, the powerful but backward people of the South and those of the northern kingdom united as a nation composed of nobles, the masses, and slaves, under rule of the first supreme pharaoh, Menes. King Menes moved his capital from the South to a few miles above the Delta, and the city was named Memphis.
Our rich knowledge of this important country is due to the Nile valley's dry climate, which has preserved materials for 3000 to 4000 years. Even the texture and color of fabrics and paints have remained intact through the centuries.
The Old Kingdom covering ten dynasties was followed by the Middle Kingdom consisting of Dynasties XI-XVII. The gigantic pyramids were a product of the Fourth Dynasty. The Middle Kingdom was the classic period of Egyptian history in which literature and poetry, sculpture, and architecture flourished. There were Semitic invasions, and the effects were reflected in art and dress after the fall of Dynasty XII.
The New Kingdom and the Late Period, embracing Dynasties XVIII-XXX, had a brilliant beginning but not so glorious an end. At the height of prosperity during the time of Rameses II many great temples were built; but in 525 B.C. Egypt met defeat from the Persians, and in 332 B.C. was conquered by Alexander the Great of Macedonia. Upon the latter's death, Ptolemy, a Macedonian general, was made governor and for almost three hundred years the country was ruled by his descendants. The last of the Ptolemies was Cleopatra, the best known queen in Egyptian history. Roman rule followed for nearly five hundred years. Since that time the Arabs, Turks, French, and English, in turn, have ruled Egypt.
Excerpted from Western World Costume by Carolyn G. Bradley. Copyright © 2001 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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