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The history of leather: From skins to leather crafts

Leather appeared a thousand years before our era throughout the Neolithic period. This era of prehistory is marked by the sedentarization of man based on agriculture and livestock rearing. 

Otzi as he may have looked like at the time of his death in 3300 B.C. (Photo: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

The prehistoric man worked with skins, barks, and leaves, and discovered vegetable tanning. Rotting skins are used to build sophisticated garments and tools. The discovery of the iceman named Ötzi within the Alps describes this era: his garment, his belt, his jacket, his shoes, and his bag are all made of animal skin. 

Throughout civilizations, tanning is on the rise. Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans develop alternative producing techniques and new uses of animal skin. The ancient Greeks are attributable to developing tanning formulas exploitation certain tree barks and leaves soaked in water to preserve the animal skin. This was the primary record of vegetable tanned animal skin, which became a well-established exchange Balkan nation around five hundred B.C. Vegetable tanned leathers are still created these days and stay a vigorous ingredient in fashionable tannages. The Romans created intensive use of animal skin for footwear, clothes, and military instrumentality together with shields, saddles, and harnesses.

Otzi wardrobe from five different animal species. (Photo: South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology)

Animal skin workshops are then created later on and different concepts were born: skins crafted with oak bark known as tan are called tanner and tanned skins with taw (a mixture of alum and ashes) gave the same name. 

The animal skin trades were more and more important and the profession extremely prosperous throughout the renaissance. However, transformation processes stay experimental and the tools terribly rudimentary. It was not until the nineteenth century that the animal skin business became industrialized with the invention of chrome tanning.


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