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The earliest stages of man and leather (Middle to Upper Stone Age 300,000 to 30,000 BC)
The story of leather and leather products begins in the very earliest stages of man.
Stone Age man is often depicted in popular culture as wearing hides in their most raw, untreated and unpreserved form. Or in Captain Caveman’s case, a body suit comprised entirely of overgrown body hair. Now that I think about it, Cavey could fly (sometimes), speak rudimentary English and was flanked by a half-hearted triptych of a “Charlie’s Angels”parody too. The man had it all, really.
The popular view of Stone Age man might be doing them a disservice, though. German archaeologists have recovered primitive stone tools from more than 100,000 million years ago – all soaked in tannin, the substance in oak bark traditionally used to produce leather.
It is now thought that Stone Age man’s use of leather was actually fairly similar to our modern usage of it. There are a number of cave paintings in Spain and France depicting men and women wearing clothing that can only be made of leather. Obviously, we’re not talking about bomber jackets or leather brogues, but there is evidence to suggest that they fashioned leather into basic skirts and tunics.
This might not be all that surprising to you. However you might be surprised to hear that the tools that scientists have recovered, not only the tools mentioned earlier but tools made of bone too, are remarkably similar to modern leathermaking tools.
Stone Age man’s usage and appreciation of leather set the stage for future generations, who would continue to use and produce leather in largely the same way. All that changed over the years, really, was that people become more efficient and adept at crafting it.