Ancient practices to the present day

Each group of discovered peoples experienced a different path from the time of discovery to the present. In North America, Native Americans were slowly overwhelmed by the gradual populating of the continent by white people; in Africa, the slave trade provided the dominant exposure to Europeans for many years; in Oceania, contact with Europeans was irregular and generally peaceful; in Central and South America, the ancient empires disappeared as

Native people from the island of Tahiti greeting European explorers and colonizers. Reproduced by permission of The Granger Collection Ltd.

Spain began to conquer the region in the 1500s. As all these cultures developed, people continued to wear the garments and decorations of ancient times, but few records were kept about their construction and their meaning. These cultures thus came into the modern age with a fragmented costume tradition.

Many of the countries of Africa and Oceania are very poor, and there simply has never been enough money to conduct arche-ological research into the costume traditions of the past. In many of these areas, the tropical climate tends to erase evidence of the past anyway, so there may be little to recover. Still, there is some hope that the meaning locked in the clothing of the past is not lost. Historians and archeologists, scientists who study the physical remains of past cultures, are still determined to forge ahead and learn what they can about the pasts of these cultures.


Flowers, Sarah. The Age of Exploration. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books, 1999.

Konstam, Angus. Historical Atlas of Exploration, 1492—1600. New York: Checkmark Books, 1999.

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