Humans began to wear clothing 170,000 years ago, a technology which enabled them to migrate out of Africa successfully, a new study has claimed.
The evidence comes from seemingly very unfashionable lice, since US scientists tracked when head lice evolved into clothing or body lice 170,000 years ago, used DNA sequencing for their calculations.
"We wanted to find another method for pinpointing when humans might have first started wearing clothing. Because they are so well adapted to clothing, we know body lice or clothing lice almost certainly didn't exist until clothing came about in humans," said study leader David Reed of Florida University.
The study shows modern humans started wearing clothes about 70,000 years before migrating into colder climates and higher latitudes, which began about 100,000 years ago, the Molecular Biology and Evolution journal reported.
This date would be virtually impossible to determine using archaeological data because early clothing would not survive in archaeological sites.
"The study also shows humans started wearing clothes well after they lost body hair, which genetic skin-colouration research pinpoints at about one million years ago, meaning humans spent a considerable amount of time without body hair and without clothing," Reed said.
He added: "It's interesting to think humans were able to survive in Africa for hundreds of thousands of years without clothing and without body hair, and that it wasn't until they had clothing that modern humans were then moving out of Africa into other parts of the world."