The Ancient Egyptians Wore Fashionable Striped Socks, New Pioneering Imaging Technology Imaging Reveals

If you grew up in cer­tain decades of the 20th cen­tu­ry, you almost cer­tain­ly spent your child­hood wear­ing striped socks, and you may even have returned to the prac­tice in recent years as they’ve regained their sar­to­r­i­al respectabil­i­ty. But new research has revealed that this sort of mul­ti­col­ored hosiery has a more dis­tant his­tor­i­cal prece­dent than we may imag­ine, one going all the way back to ancient Egypt. The sub­ject of that research, the small sock pic­tured above, evi­dences the fash­ion­abil­i­ty of striped socks among the Egypt­ian youth of more than 1700 years ago, though its own stripes have only recent­ly been revealed by the most mod­ern imag­ing tech­nol­o­gy.

“Sci­en­tists at the British Muse­um have devel­oped pio­neer­ing imag­ing to dis­cov­er how enter­pris­ing Egyp­tians used dyes on a child’s sock, recov­ered from a rub­bish dump in ancient Anti­noupo­lis in Roman Egypt, and dat­ing from 300AD,” writes The Guardian’s Car­o­line Davies. “New mul­ti­spec­tral imag­ing can estab­lish which dyes were used – mad­der (red), woad (blue) and weld (yel­low) – but also how peo­ple of the late antiq­ui­ty peri­od used dou­ble and sequen­tial dying and weav­ing, and twist­ing fibers to cre­ate myr­i­ad col­ors from their scarce resources.”

This and oth­er sim­i­lar­ly advanced research, such as the use of ultra­vi­o­let light and infrared and x‑ray spec­troscopy that found the bright col­ors of ancient Greek sculp­ture, no doubt has us all rethink­ing the broad­ly mono­chro­mat­ic fash­ion in which we’ve long envi­sioned the ancient world.

We may also have to start imag­in­ing it a lit­tle less ele­gant­ly than we have been. “The ancient Egyp­tians employed a sin­gle-nee­dle loop­ing tech­nique, often referred to as nål­bind­ning, to cre­ate their socks,” writes Smith­son­ian’s Kather­ine J. Wu. “Notably, the approach could be used to sep­a­rate the big toe and four oth­er toes in the sock — which just may have giv­en life to the ever-con­tro­ver­sial socks-and-san­dals trend.” It brings to mind the archae­o­log­i­cal research that came out a few years ago sug­gest­ing that the Romans in Britain two mil­len­nia ago may have worn socks with their san­dals as well. That infor­ma­tion has made it to the Wikipedia page specif­i­cal­ly ded­i­cat­ed to socks and san­dals; an enter­pris­ing read­er might have a look at the British Muse­um sci­en­tists’ paper, “A mul­ti­spec­tral imag­ing approach inte­grat­ed into the study of Late Antique tex­tiles from Egypt,” and add in a bit about the ancient wear­ing of striped socks with san­dals as well.

via Smith­son­ian

Relat­ed Con­tent:

How Did the Egyp­tians Make Mum­mies? An Ani­mat­ed Intro­duc­tion to the Ancient Art of Mum­mi­fi­ca­tion

How the Egypt­ian Pyra­mids Were Built: A New The­o­ry in 3D Ani­ma­tion

Try the Old­est Known Recipe For Tooth­paste: From Ancient Egypt, Cir­ca the 4th Cen­tu­ry BC

The Turin Erot­ic Papyrus: The Old­est Known Depic­tion of Human Sex­u­al­i­ty (Cir­ca 1150 B.C.E.)

The Met Dig­i­tal­ly Restores the Col­ors of an Ancient Egypt­ian Tem­ple, Using Pro­jec­tion Map­ping Tech­nol­o­gy

Based in Seoul, Col­in Mar­shall writes and broad­casts on cities, lan­guage, and cul­ture. His projects include the book The State­less City: a Walk through 21st-Cen­tu­ry Los Ange­les and the video series The City in Cin­e­ma. Fol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall or on Face­book.

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