Depiction of Neanderthals from National Museum of Natural History.
Researchers studying skin-crawling body lice have determined that humans began wearing clothing about 170,000 years ago, far earlier than the approximately 100,000 years previously believed.
Researchers sequenced the DNA of clothing lice to see when the bugs began diverging genetically from head lice, suggesting lice were adapting to life on cloth rather than skin and hair. Latest findings suggest modern humans started wearing clothes about 170,000 years ago, 70,000 years before migrating from Africa into colder climates and higher latitudes.
"I find it surprising that modern humans were tinkering with clothing probably long before they really needed it for survival," David Reed, associate curator of mammals at the Florida Museum of Natural History, told LiveScience. "But that tinkering really paid off when they finally left Africa and moved into Europe and Asia."
A past study of clothing lice in 2003 estimated humans first began wearing clothes about 107,000 years ago. However, the latest research form Reed and his colleagues includes new data, as well as calculation methods better suited to minimize errors in estimates.
Click here for the LiveScience article.