Thursday, June 10, 2010

Oldest Surviving Shoe?

Someone on one of the costume-related mailing lists I frequent passed along this link to a BBC article about a recent archaeological find in Armenia. (Thanks go to Melisende Fitzwalter from the Yahoo Authentic SCA list.)

The find is of a complete, and relatively sound, leather shoe. It is estimated to be about 5,500 years old. It is formed from a single, shaped piece of leather, and stitched closed down the middle of the instep. The article contains a very good picture of the find, which I commend to my readers' attention.

Interestingly, it would have fit me. The shoe is estimated to be a European size 38, which corresponds to UK size 5 or a woman's size 7 in the U.S., and that is the size I wear. Since there was no body associated with the find, there are no clues as to whether this particular shoe was worn by a man or a woman, or whether the grass with which it was stuffed was worn with the shoe or would have been removed for wearing. 

It it sobering to realize that this ancient shoe would have fit right in with the types of shoes worn in Europe in the Middle Ages, approximately 4,500 years later, and would not be that conspicuous today.

EDIT:   The amazing pearl has located the scholarly article describing this find, and thoughtfully provided a link to same on her blog. The article may be found here. Thanks, pearl!

SECOND EDIT:  The abstract from the scholarly article indicates that the shoe is a European size 37, not 38.  That makes it a bit small for me. :-)

THIRD EDIT:  The scholarly article points out that this shoe is the oldest found in Eurasia, but that older shoes have been discovered in Missouri.  Thus, I have reinstated the question mark in the title to this post.

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