Leather for the Ages: Study Reveals the Ancient Iceman’s Penchant for Tailoring Leather Wear

  • by Go-Uniq
Leather for the Ages: Study Reveals the Ancient Iceman’s Penchant for Tailoring Leather Wear

Leather dates back to ancient times and you might have even seen depictions of cavemen wearing leather garments in movies and TV shows. But did you know that our ancestors were actually skilled tailors and leather craftsmen? Entre Ötzi the iceman, or more specifically, his mummified corpse found trapped in the Italian Apls. It’s been 25 years since tourists happened upon this 5,300 year-old specimen.

Leather-work from the Copper Age

According to scientists from Italy and Ireland, the Ötzi was a potentially versatile tailor. Findings show that he used sheep skins, as well as goat and cow hides, to make his select wardrobe collection.

Ötzi's outfit also included brown bear and roe deer skins, indicating that he had exotic tastes. According to Ron Pinhasi, co-author of the study from University College Dublin, the findings show that Ötzi was "pretty picky" about the skins he ate. 

Keep in mind that people from his time were known to create clothing like caps, coats, and loincloths from leather. However, given the Copper Age and the effects of time, it was difficult to determine what animal skins were used. Recent research, however, has revealed that at least five different species were used in the creation of Otzi's clothing line.

Ötzi’s Ensemble

According to researchers, his loin cloth was made from sheepskin. Ötzi’s leggings – the modern-day equivalent of pants – was made of goat skin. Even his shoelaces and coat were made from animal leather. But, it was his hat and quiver that showed Ötzi’s taste for the exotic as they were made from bear and deer hides.

This tells us that our iceman was likely from some form of herding community or agricultural civilization, as the majority of the leather came from domesticated livestock. These findings also tell us that people from that time were extremely resourceful and opportunistic, using what they had available. They were also handy, given that leather produced during the Copper Age would have lacked the treatment processes of modern tanneries. This would mean the leather would degrade quicker than today’s items. So, our iceman had to stitch, knit, cure, tan, and fashion leather items quite frequently.

What’s more impressive? The primitive, yet varied tanning methods that were used to cure the leather. Scientists speculate that there were a few different methods, including metal tanning, vegetable tanning, smoking, and fat tanning, that may have been used to process the animal skins before use.


If Ötzi’s exploits in the tannery business tells us anything, it’s that leather is as old as it gets when it comes to historical clothing options. It has quite literally stood the test of time and then some. The best part is that leather in the 21st century and beyond has evolved into a more refined process, while still keeping true to its roots.

Here at Deniva, we take pride in how we operate in the tannery business. We make sure that every step of the process, from sourcing to the final product in your hands, is executed with sustainable and humane methods for all those involved in the craft. The only thing that tops our quality leather products, is the ethical standard we hold ourselves to.


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