views updated Jun 08 2018


For the men and women living in Mesopotamia (the region centered in present-day Iraq near the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers) from 3000 to 300 b.c.e., a fringed shawl was a typical garment. Unlike modern-day shawls that are worn over the shoulders and head, the shawls of Mesopotamia were wrapped around the hips like long skirts or wrapped around the torso with one end tossed over the left shoulder, covering the body to the feet like a dress. Whether worn as a skirt or a dress, shawls were held in place with belts tied in the back.

The first depictions of shawls on statues and bas-reliefs, or wall carvings, on the remains of palace walls show rather plain fabric wraps. In time, however, the fringe and decorative borders of these shawls became more elaborate. Shawls were made most commonly out of wool, but wealthy people could afford finely woven linen, and after 700 b.c.e., perhaps even cotton or silk. The wealthiest people also wore embroidered shawls or shawls decorated with gold or precious stone beads.


Nemet-Nejat, Karen Rhea. Daily Life in Ancient Mesopotamia. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1998.

Payne, Blanche. History of Costume: From the Ancient Egyptians to the Twentieth Century. New York: Harper and Row, 1965.


views updated May 21 2018

shawl / shôl/ • n. a piece of fabric worn by women over the shoulders or head or wrapped around a baby.DERIVATIVES: shawled adj.ORIGIN: from Urdu and Persian šāl, probably from Shāliāt, the name of a town in India.


views updated May 29 2018

shawl Oriental oblong article of dress made in Kashmir from the hair of a goat of Tibet XVII; in the West, outer covering for the shoulders (and head) XVIII. Earliest forms (s)chal, scial, shaul; ult. — Urdu, etc. — Pers. šāl, prob. f. Shāliāt, a town in India.