The Journey Of Leather Throughout Human History

The Journey Of Leather Throughout Human History

The role played by leather in shaping and developing human history is a fascinating saga. From the prehistoric eras to the modern age, the application and status of leather have gone through massive changes. What men chose as a durable and easily available material during the ancient era, has now become a great luxury industry on its own. The evolution of leather is nothing less incredible than evolution itself, and in its true sense, leather has shaped the growth of human history to a great extent.

The First Use Of Leather

The incredible bonding between humans and leather may be traced back as early as the ice age, when people used raw hides to stay warm. However, the hides were subject to decay and rot easily since humans had yet to learn about tanning, a method that could preserve the leather. Over time, Stone Age arrived and during that era, tanned leather was first discovered by humans as the fruit of their accidental experimentation.

Discovery of The Oldest Tanning Method

The accidental discovery of the leather tanning method might have occurred through animal hides left in tannin-containing water for a long time which was a very natural and obvious way to learn about the tannin process. Several plants contain tannin, and it's not hard to assume that raw animal hides must have been left in water with such plant material that led to the first-ever tanned leather. This method was the oldest form of vegetable tanning. It was indeed labour-intensive and time-consuming, but soon men understood that this process could make the animal hides super durable and flexible. So, they incorporated the tanning method to create more versatile items such as footwear and bags.

Civilisations and Leather

Manifold archaeological findings prove that as early as 400000 years ago, humans were already working with leather, and also provide records of extensive application of leather. Now, the common question that arises is how far men carried their experiments with leather in different civilisations. 

Harnessing the versatile power of leather, Sumerians were already using it for various purposes during 3000BCE. The oldest civilisations recognised the virtue of leather and worked together to optimise its application and benefits. The art of leather crafting was time consuming and was a communal job, given the essential resources and effort to process the raw hides and prepare the leather. During the early civilisations, tools like ‘lissoirs’, which was a prehistoric stone crapping tool, were used in leather crafts, preparing the ground for modern leather craftsmanship. Materials that were previously used for survival, clothing, tools and shelter, were beginning to be  utilised for various purposes by Mehergarh and Sumerians by then. The leather we adore today in multiple looks and forms is the same material that our distant ancestors curated and developed for life necessities. Isn't the history fascinating?

Leather In Fashion

Several scientific methods point out that leather had been incorporated anciently as an integral material to protect the body from natural elements. Based on archaeological findings that discovered bone awls in South Africa which date back to 82000 BCE, scientists theorise that during that era, leather was the basic material of clothing along with fur. The bone awls as they think were used to form holes in leather. The first ever sewing needles were found in Siberia, and theirage can be traced back to 33000BC, reflecting a close connection between leather and clothing. Such discoveries mark a remarkable shift in the historic records of the use of leather.

The Advancement of Leather Tools and Techniques

In the advancement of leather craftmanship, the evolution of techniques and effective tools played a crucial role. The application of sewing needles and bone awls altered the way leather was used during the Stone Age, allowing the production of complex items. Apart from these tools, the exploration of new tanning methods paved the way for the revolution of leather craftsmanship. A wide range of complex materials were being created with leather, ranging from shoes and bags to chariot harnesses, flexing the durability and versatility of this material. From items of clothing for survival to purses, belts and battlefield gear, the evolution of leather has indeed come a long way with the restless effort of our ancestors.


The use of leather in early ages was not just practical but also revolutionary. It marks how humans interacted and dealt with the environment, making the available resources count to enhance their quality of living. It was not about just survival, but it speaks more about innovation and the progress of humankind.

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