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The invention of trousers

After many years of research, archaeologists, fashion and textile designers and natural scientists present the results of their work in articles, books and a film:

May 31, 2021


Image Credit: Jan Kersten

In the westernmost part of China, in the Tarim Basin, extreme drought has preserved clothing and equipment made of organic material from a distant past. In 2003, Chinese archaeologists discovered a fully clothed man buried in his tomb near the city of Turfan in 2003. He wore pants and a poncho, boots and ribbons. An international team of scientists including archaeologists, fashion designers, geoscientists, chemists and restorers worked for five years to decipher the material and construction of the Turfan Man's clothing, as well as the environmental conditions during his lifetime.

To test their hypotheses, they reproduced the pants as faithfully as possible. The scientists thus ventured into a still unexplored part of clothing history. Old age was just the first discovery, many more followed, because nothing about these pants was what they expected.

Wearing trousers is now a given for men and women, old and young, on almost every occasion. But who invented trousers, when, where and why? An international team is trying to answer these questions and is tracking down the origin of trousers and the secret of their construction in the dry inner Asia. The camera accompanies the scientists to excavation sites in arid western China and to the work tables of restorers, to the laboratories of paleoclimate research and animal genetics, to sheep breeders and fashion designers. You can watch the team make discoveries and overcome problems step by step as they attempt to reproduce the world's oldest known pants. The film features previously unreleased footage, animation and music composed specifically for this story. It is a result of the cooperation between archaeologists from the German Archaeological Institute and graduates of the Babelsberg Film University KONRAD WOLF.

This 46-minute film chronicles the explorers' adventures, the difficulties they had to overcome, and the discoveries they made in their search for answers.

The invention of trousers - Film [youtube]