Shoes from antiquity: 10 interesting archaeological finds (11 photos)

Category: Archeology, PEGI 0+
24 April 2024

What did shoes look like in the old days? What did people wear on their feet? What were these shoes made of? Here are some of the most unusual finds from archaeological excavations.

1. A child's shoe found in an Austrian salt mine

While exploring a salt mine in Austria, archaeologists discovered an amazing thing: a child's shoe. Despite its age of 2,200 years, the leather boot was in very good condition: even the piece of linen that came with it was preserved. The researchers attributed the excellent preservation of the shoes to optimally dry conditions in the mine. Archaeologists say this lone shoe provides evidence that children worked in the mines more than two millennia ago.

2. Decorated Roman sandal found in a well in Spain

Archaeologists have come up with a pulley system to retrieve a 2,000-year-old Roman sandal that was covered in mud at the bottom of a well in Spain. After cleaning the shoes, the researchers discovered that the leather sandal was elaborately "decorated with a variety of circles, loops, ovals and other motifs." The researchers suggested that the owner of the shoes most likely lost them while cleaning the well.

3Grass Sandals Found in a Bat Cave in Spain

In 2023, archaeologists discovered a pair of sandals woven from grass that were 6,200 years old. Researchers consider them to be the oldest shoes ever found in Southern Europe. The sandals were discovered in a bat cave in southern Spain along with other interesting artifacts, including 9,500-year-old woven baskets used by hunter-gatherers, a wooden hammer and human skeletal remains.

4. Bronze Age shoe found in Norway

The award for the oldest shoe ever found in Norway goes to this 3,000-year-old boot that archaeologists recovered from melting mountain ice. Thanks to glacial conditions, the leather shoe was perfectly preserved; Judging by its small size (about 4 or 5 in modern American sizes; 35 in European sizes), researchers believe it belonged to a woman or child. Other finds from the 2007 expedition included several arrows and a wooden shovel, indicating that the area may have been used for hunting at the time.

5. Iron Age skis found in Norway

In 2014, glacial archaeologists discovered a lone wooden ski on the top of an ice-covered mountain in Norway. In 2021, scientists returned to this place and found a second ski. Both were in excellent condition thanks to the ice grave and even retained the original birch wood bindings that helped hold the feet of an Iron Age skier firmly in place over 1,000 years ago.

6. A Jar Filled with Shoes Found in an Egyptian Temple

Archaeologists have discovered a collection of ancient shoes stored in a jar in an Egyptian temple in Luxor. The researchers counted seven boots in total, including two sets of children's boots that were tied inside a larger, folded boot, and one pair of adult boots. All shoes are 2,000 years old. It was unevenly worn, suggesting that its owner walked with a limp. And it was repaired many times, which speaks of its value and inaccessibility.

7. Iron Age Leather Sandal Found in Norway

During a mountain hike in Norway, a tourist discovered a single leather sandal. After he reported his discovery to authorities, archaeologists recovered the item, along with several other items, including textiles and chunks of frozen horse manure, from the icy mountaintop. Radiocarbon dating showed that the sandal dates back to around 300 AD. All of these artifacts indicate that the site was most likely a popular route for people traveling from the Norwegian interior to the coast.

8. Children's shoes found at a Roman military base in Britain

Social status was an important aspect of the culture of the Roman Empire, and clothing choices were one way to demonstrate one's wealth. This can be seen in a pair of tiny shoes designed for a baby; they were modeled after men's shoes that researchers discovered at Vindolanda, a former Roman military base active in northern England from the 1st to the 5th centuries. In addition to children's fashionable booties, researchers have found more than 4,000 shoes at the site over the years of excavations.

9. Wool socks found in Egypt

Archaeologists discovered these cozy wool socks with split toes sometime in the 19th century in Egypt. Made from three-ply wool, they were created in the fourth or fifth centuries using a technique called "nalbindning", which is more similar to sewing than knitting as it used a single flat needle and thread, according to the Victoria and Albert Museum, where they are stored.

10. Goatskin shoes found in a Chinese tomb

A pair of 1,400-year-old goatskin shoes have been restored to their original glory after archaeologists restored them. These items were found in the ancient cemetery of Astana, one of many stops along the Silk Road. It took researchers 20 days to remove dirt and mold that had accumulated on the shoes over centuries, but the effort was worth it. When the shoes were cleaned, archaeologists discovered that animal tendons were used to sew them together.

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