World's oldest leather shoe discovered in Armenia

A 5,500-year-old leather shoe – complete with laces – has been unearthed in cave in Armenia.



The perfectly preserved shoe – 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza and 400 years older than Stonehenge – is the oldest known example of enclosed leather footwear, out-dating the shoes worn by “Ötzi the Iceman” by a few hundred years.



The sole-less right shoe is made out of a single piece of cow hide and was found containing grass, which may have served to keep the foot warm or to maintain the shape of the shoe. It is not known whether the shoe – 24.5cm long and a European size 37 – belonged to a man or a woman, though it is thought to have been best suited to a male. It has been dated to the Chalcolithic period, about 3500BC.



The discovery was made in Vayotz Dzor province on Armenia’s border with Iran and Turkey by Diana Zardaryan ,of Armenia’s Institute of Archaeology. “I was amazed to find that even the shoelaces were preserved,” she said.



The discovery – made in 2008 – has been published in the online scientific journal PloS ONE.



Such a well-preserved artifact from a Middle Eastern archaeological site is unusual because the high content of salts and fungi in the soil, as well as fluctuations in temperature and humidity, usually fast-track the deterioration of organic materials. However the cave’s stable, cool conditions – aided by a thick layer of sheep dung on the floor – aided preservation. Other finds at the site included large containers, many storing well-preserved wheat, barley and apricots, plus a broken pot, fish bones and sheep’s horns.



“We couldn't believe the discovery,” said the dig's co-director Gregory Areshian, part of an international team of archaeologists working at the site. “The crusts had sealed the artifacts and archaeological deposits, and artifacts remained fresh dried, just like they were put in a can.”



The shoe is similar to the 'pampootsies' worn until the 1950s on Ireland’s Aran Islands. “Enormous similarities exist between manufacturing technique and style of this shoe and those found across Europe at later periods,” said Dr Ron Pinhasi of Cork University. “(This suggests) that this type of shoe was worn for thousands of years across a large and environmentally diverse geographic region.



"We do not know yet what the shoe or other objects were doing in the cave or what the purpose of the cave was. We know that there are children's graves at the back of the cave but so little is known about this period that we cannot say with any certainty why all these different objects were found together." The team will continue to excavate the cave, which has multiple chambers.



While the Armenian discovery may claim the honours as the world’s oldest leather shoe, the oldest known footwear – a moccasin and a pair of leather sandals discovered in a cave in Missouri – are believed to be some 2,000 years older.



Leather sandals of a similar age to the Armenian shoe were found in Israel’s Judean Desert, but their age was based on other artefacts in the so-called Cave of the Warriors rather than on the sandals themselves.



Grey mass dating back 5,000 years. World's oldest human brain found in Armenia?

Stonehenge Summer Solstice: Where, When, What

Wembley's new £16 million Hindu temple built using ancient methods

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Arts and Entertainment
Jamie T plays live in 2007 before going on hiatus from 2010
arts + entsSinger-songwriter will perform on the Festival Republic Stage
Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

    £20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

    Service Desk Analyst - (Active Directory, Support, London)

    £25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst - (Active Di...

    Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

    Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Learning, SQL, VBA)

    £30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst (Machine Lea...

    Day In a Page

    All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

    Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

    So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

    Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
    What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

    What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

    Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

    The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
    Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

    Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

    Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
    Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

    Radio 1’s new top ten

    The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

    A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
    Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

    Florence Knight's perfect picnic

    Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
    Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

    Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

    The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
    Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

    Mark Hix's summery soups

    Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
    Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

    Tim Sherwood column

    I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

    Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

    The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
    Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

    Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

    The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition