The Tarkhan dress at the Petrie Museum, London.

The Tarkhan dress at the Petrie Museum, London.

I came across this dress in the first week I moved to London and the first week of my studies in Archaeology. It fascinated me straight away. It is made from linen, comes from Egypt and dates to around 3000BC – which means it’s about 5000 years old! The fact that it survived that long is incredible and very, very rare – I’m fairly certain that most of my own clothes won’t even survive 100 years!

The dress has beautiful stitching, narrow pleats, tailored sleeves, a V-neck and was probably made for a teenager judging by its size. It would have taken time to make and demonstrates that even 5000 years ago the person who made this would have been highly skilled. We know too that the dress was worn because there are creases around the armpits and elbows.

What makes this dress so special for me is the insight it gives us into this ancient society. The past can so often feel like a foreign country to us, distant and strange, and yet with a dress such as this you realise that in fact, all through human history we have points in common – such as clothes. Dresses have been worn by girls all over the world for thousands of years, and they will probably continue to be worn by girls all over the world for several more thousands of years. It might seem like a silly commonality, but it can be so easy to forget that people in the past were actually just like us. When we look at this dress, the mind takes us on a journey and imagines the girl that might have worn this 5000 years ago, it creates a small link to someone very far away from us – which is an incredibly special thing I think!

The dress currently lives in the Petrie Museum, in London, and if you take a look at their website, there’s a wonderful tutorial on how to make your very own Tarkhan dress! Just one small way to make the gap in time and space seem a little smaller!

-Kate Havard
Junior Girl
Girl Museum Inc.

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