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Melting Glaciers Are Liberating Ancient Clothes, Like This 1,700-Year-Old Sweater

The well worn, patched up tunic turned up after sections of Norway’s quickly-melting Lendbreen glacier retreated

(Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo, Marianne Vedeler)
smithsonian.com

Around 1,700 years ago, a reindeer hunter lost a well-worn, patched up tunic. It turned up recently in Norway, after sections of the quickly melting Lendbreen glacier retreated. As glaciers around that country melt, more and more scraps of ancient clothing are being revealed. This one, however, is in especially fine condition. Discovery News reports:

Examinations with a scanning electron microscope and light microscopy revealed that two different fabrics, made of lamb’s wool or wool from adult sheep, are present in the tunic.

“There is no doubt that the wool was carefully chosen for both fabrics, and that both quality and natural pigmentation were taken into consideration,” the researchers said.

The tunic was once a greenish brown. Its owner would have worn it like a pull-over or sweater, Discovery writes, given its lack of buttons. The weave—a diamond twill—has turned up in other fragment scraps recovered in the region.

Indeed, the fabric was deliberately and evenly mottled, the effect obtained using two light and two dark brown alternating wool threads.

Two carefully added patches, the researchers say, show that the hunter probably took good care of his things, and they also suspect that the sweater may have originally been sleeveless, with those warmth-providing additions added at a later date.

As for why the hunter left such a lovely garment behind, the researchers can only speculate. Perhaps he was overtaken by a sudden storm, they told Discovery, forcing him to quickly retreat without retrieving his tunic. Given the amount of care put into it, he would probably be glad to know that the sweater, at last, has found a good home.

More from Smithsonian.com:

Live Evolution Tracks the Invention of Clothes 
Almost All that Remains of this Woman, Perhaps the First Queen of Windsor, Is Her Jewelry 

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