UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

This Dress Is at Least 5100 Years Old

 UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology
UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

While archaeologists have uncovered ceramic fragments and tools dating back tens of thousands of years, clothing is another story. Since most garments are made of delicate materials like linen and wool, ancient clothing finds are extremely rare—which is what makes the Tarkhan dress so unique.

According to recent radiocarbon dating tests, the Tarkhan dress is between 5100 and 5500 years old, making it the oldest dress ever found. The dress comes from the so-called Tarkhan excavations conducted in the early 1900s in Egypt about 30 miles south of Cairo. According to the study in Antiquity, the dress was buried in a tomb for thousands of years, and came quite close to never being discovered at all. While the main Tarkhan excavations occurred from 1912 to 1913, the dress was overlooked and lumped with a pile of rags. It was found more than six decades later, in 1977, when a bundle of miscellaneous textiles were sent to the Victoria and Albert Museum in London for conservation.

The dress would have been worn by a member of the Egyptian upper class, and, although it came from an Egyptian tomb, it was originally created for the living, not the dead; it shows signs of wear.

It's not the only example of an ancient garment, but it is the only one to have been "cut, fitted, and tailored," the researchers write.

"A handful of garments of similar age have survived to the present day, but those were simply wrapped or draped around the body," explains National Geographic. "The Tarkhan dress, on the other hand, is ancient haute couture." 

 

UCL Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology

[h/t National Geographic]

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Drought Reveals Ancient Sites in Scotland That Can Only Be Spotted From the Air
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iStock

Typically rainy Scotland is in the middle of an unusually dry summer—and local archaeologists are taking advantage of it. As the BBC reports, the drought has revealed ancient sites, including Roman camps and Iron Age graves, that have been hidden by farm soil for years.

Historic Environment Scotland has been conducting aerial surveys of the country's landscape since the 1930s, but it's in seasons like this, when the crops recede during dry weather, that the buried remains of ancient structures are easiest to spot. Conditions this summer have been the best since 1976 for documenting archaeological sites from the sky.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

The crescent-shaped crop mark in the photo above indicates a souterrain, or underground passageway, that was built in the Scottish Borders during the Iron Age. The surveyors also found remains of a Roman temporary camp, marked by straight lines in the landscape, built in modern-day Lyne—an area south of Edinburgh already known to have housed a complex of Roman camps and forts.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

In the image below you'll see four small ditches—three circles and one square—that were likely used as burial sites during the Iron Age. When crops are planted over an ancient ditch, they have more water and nutrients to feed on, which helps them grow taller and greener. Such crops are especially visible during a drought when the surrounding vegetation is sparse and brown.

Aerial view of field.
Historic Environment Scotland

Historic Environment Scotland has a team of aerial surveyors trained to spot the clues: To date, they've discovered more than 9000 archaeological sites from the air. HSE plans to continue scoping out new areas of interest as long as the dry spell lasts.

It's not just in Scotland that long-hidden settlements are coming to light: similar aerial surveys in Wales are finding them too.

[h/t BBC]

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An Ancient Sarcophagus Was Found in Egypt—And It's Never Been Opened
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iStock

In what could be the plot of the next summer blockbuster, a sealed sarcophagus has been found 16 feet underground in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, Science Alert reports. It’s still unknown who or what might be lying inside the nondescript black granite casket, but what’s clear is that it hasn’t been opened since it was closed more than 2000 years ago.

Ayman Ashmawy, head of the government’s Ancient Egyptian Antiquities Sector, observed “a layer of mortar between the lid and the body of the sarcophagus,” indicating it hadn't been opened, according to a Ministry of Antiquities Facebook post. Considering that many ancient tombs in Egypt have been looted over the years, an untouched sarcophagus is quite a rare find.

The sarcophagus was discovered when a site in the Sidi Gaber district, dating back to the Ptolemaic Dynasty (305-30 BCE), was inspected before construction of a building began. The casket is 104.3 inches long and 65 inches wide, making it the largest of its kind ever discovered in Alexandria. In addition, an alabaster statue of a man’s head was found in the same tomb, and some have speculated that it might depict whoever is sealed inside the sarcophagus. Live Science suggested that archaeologists may opt to inspect its contents using X-rays or computed tomography scans to prevent damage to the artifact.

Although it remains a mystery for now, Twitter has a few theories about who might be lying inside:

[h/t Science Alert]

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