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The Procession of the Trojan Horse in Troy by Giovanni Domenico Tiepolo  (1760)(Public Domain)

The Invisible History of Military Camouflage

For at least 150,000 years, if not much longer, small groups of human hunters adorned themselves with the skins, horns and oils of the beasts they tracked to better conceal their presence and to delude their prey. Over time ancient tactics of concealment were adopted in the arts of warfare, and so emerged camouflage, in all its guises. While the origins of camouflage in warfare are generally associated with the First World War, they actually emerge from deep-prehistory, and exist today as a symbol of man’s developmental genius.

Artist's impression of prehistoric hunters. Source: We Have Concerns

Artist's impression of prehistoric hunters. Source: We Have Concerns

Ancient Origins Of Camouflage

Humans and camouflage go back many thousands of years and anthropologists think it most likely that humans were inspired by animals and insects that could alter their physical attributes to blend into their environment at will. Concealment, disguises and invisibility can be found in ancient literature associated with the gods, spirits or inhuman creatures, and in modern fiction invisibility features in many forms. However, it was British zoologist, Sir Edward Poulton, who wrote the first book on camouflage in 1890 called The Colours of Animals, in which he supported Darwinism claiming animal mimicry, or imitation, for concealment was proof of natural selection.  In 1940, zoologist Hugh Cott built on Poulton’s ideas and suggested a concept called ‘contour obliteration which makes it difficult to perceive continuous forms by blurring an object’s defining edge, and ‘shadow elimination’ reducing the appearance of recognizable shadows.


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