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While we might associate bangles with modern fashion, the bangle is in fact a pre-historic invention, with a history that dates back to 2500 BC. But who were the earliest people to wear bangles? In this blog, we’re going to take a trip back in history to explore the earliest discovery of the bangle, and take a look at its timeless journey from prehistoric times to the modern era. Let’s get started!
Who were the first people to wear bangles?
While bangles were known to be worn across civilisations and cultures across the world, the culture first known to have worn bangles were the Mohenjo-Daro settlements, or what today is known as Pakistan.
This discovery was made by archaeologists in 1973, who found a statue of what is now referred to as the “Dancing girl.” It was believed to have been made during the Bronze Age, and features a remarkable display of a teenage girl sporting one full arm of bangles.
According to the archeologists, this statue dates back to 2500 BC, and is regarded as the earliest example of human-made jewelry. It is also considered the origin story for the modern bangle, which is still worn to this day as a fashion accessory across the world.
Which other historic cultures wore bangles?
While the first bangles were found in Mohenjo-Daro, other ancient and prehistoric cultures also wore an assortment of bangles and bracelets, either as a symbol of status or to ward off evil spirits:
In addition to being discovered in Mohenjo-Daro, bangles have also been found in ancient Egyptian tombs. It’s believed that ancient Egyptians (men, women and children) wore bangles for protection and as a sign of social status, with gold, silver and bronze being popular bangle materials. Bangles were also often inscribed with hieroglyphs, likely representing prayers and symbols of protection.
Indian culture is perhaps the most known for its commitment to symbolic jewelry, and bangles are no exception. In India, bangles have been worn across cultures for over 5,000 years, and were traditionally made from silver, gold and other precious stones and metals. The most common Indian bangle is the kada or kara, which is made from silver and symbolizes strength and protection of the wearer. However, gold bangles – especially 22k gold bangles – are also widely popular, especially for Indian brides: gold bangles – often known as chooda – are typically worn in weddings as a symbol of love, loyalty and marital happiness.
Greeks and Romans
Bangles were also worn by the ancient Greeks, Romans and Celts, often being made from clay or bronze. These bangles were generally less decorative than those seen in Ancient Egypt, but served an important purpose among their respective cultures. In Ancient Greece, bangles were sometimes used as a form of currency. Meanwhile in Rome, bangles served a mostly decorative purpose, although some believed that wearing bangles on both wrists was a symbol of their immortality.
In China, bangles are believed to have been worn as early as the Neolithic period. In Chinese culture, bangles typically carried a spiritual significance and were often made from jade or agate to ward off bad luck and evil spirits, as well as to heal the body. Today, some Chinese regions still include bangles in their cultural heritage, and jade bangles are often offered as gifts between mothers and daughters.
The modern day bangle
Today, many cultures around the world still wear bangles, and in the West, these are more typically worn as a fashion accessory rather than for protection or spiritual significance. Modern bangles come in a variety of styles and materials, from silver to gold and even plastic or synthetic materials.
In South Asia, you can find brightly coloured glass bangles being worn as part of traditional outfits; meanwhile, in the western world, classic metal or diamond bangles are popular for day-to-day wear. In India, the wearing of gold bangles and other symbolic jewelry is still a common practice; even Indians who immigrate to Western countries still show homage to the historic Indian jewelry traditions, such as the Punjab kada and the chooda, as well as the mangalsutra.