History

World's Oldest Shoe: Pictures

Check out the World's Oldest Shoe: Pictures

Real Vintage Footwear

Scientists have found what they believe may be the oldest shoe ever documented. The 5,500-year-old right-footed shoe was perfectly preserved under layers of sheep dung inside a cave in Armenia. The shoe, made of tanned cowhide, is older than Stonehenge and the Egyptian pyramids, scientists say. Grass found inside the shoe may have been used to keep the foot warm or to maintain the shape of the shoe -- like a modern shoe-tree. Get the full story here.

Designed for Comfort

The moccasin-like footwear was created from a single piece of cow hide that was wrapped around the foot. A leather thong was used to stitch the back and top of the shoe through four and 15 sets of eyelets respectively. The shoe was worn and shaped to the wearer's right foot, particularly around the heel where the highest pressure is exerted in a normal gait.

Worn by a Farmer

The shoe's size corresponds to about a U.S. size 7 woman's shoe. It was probably worn by a farmer living in the mountains of the Vayotz Dzor province. "While small, the shoe could well have fitted a man from that era," said Ron Pinhasi, of the Department of Archaeology at the University College Cork, Ireland. Pinhasi was lead author of a study describing the shoe, that appeared in the journal PLoS One.

Armenian Cave

The entrance to the Areni-1 cave, where the leather shoe was found, is marked by blue plastic.

Map of the Site

The cave is situated in the Vayotz Dzor province of Armenia, on the Armenian, Iranian, Nakhichevanian and Turkish borders. It was known to regional archaeologists due to its visibility from the highway below.

Other Discoveries

The stable, cool and dry conditions in the cave provided exceptional preservation of the shoe and other objects inside. Besides the shoe, scientists found three pots, each containing a child's skull, and containers of well preserved barley, wheat, apricot and other edible plants.

Sheep Dung: Nature's Preservative

The preservation was also helped by the fact that the floor of the cave was covered by a thick layer of sheep dung, which acted as a solid seal over the objects, preserving them over the millennia.

Clues to a Mysterious Era

The discoveries in the cave provide clues to a so far under-documented era -- the Chalcolithic period or Copper Age -- when humans are thought to have invented the wheel and domesticated horses. Get the full story here.