Aturban—or hat made of elaborately wrapped, finely woven fabric—adorned the heads of women as early as the Sumerian civilization, which began in 3000 B.C.E. The Sumerians lived in the fertile valley between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers in modern-day Iraq. Skilled weavers used their own hands and machines called looms to make the delicate, lightweight fabrics that turbans required. Sumerian sculptures, statues, and royal tomb remains depict women wearing turbans so elaborate that they must have required help in wrapping them. Sumerian turbans draped around women's heads in many different complex decorative ways. Turbans represented one of the many intricate styles for dressing hair that Sumerians practiced.

Sculpture showing a man wearing typical Mesopotamian turban. Reproduced by permission of © .

Though little is known about the earliest turbans worn in Mesopotamia, the area in which the Sumerians lived, we do know that the turban became an important form of headwear for men in the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa for much of recorded history. They were common from the earliest years of civilization in India before the third century C.E. , and they became popular among Turks after the decline of the Byzantine Empire in 1453 C.E. They are now worn by members of the Sikh religion, as well as by some Muslims and Hindus, in order to show their religious faith.


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

[ See also Volume 1, India: Turbans ; Volume 2, Byzantine Empire: Turbans ]

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