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World’s Oldest Leather Shoe Found in Armenia A perfectly preserved shoe, 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt and 400 years older than Stonehenge in the UK, has been found in a cave in Armenia.
The 5,500 year old shoe, the oldest leather shoe in the world, was discovered by a team of international archaeologists and their findings will publish on June 9th in the online scientific journal PLoS ONE.
The cow hide shoe dates back to 3,500 BC (the Chalcolithic period) and is in perfect condition. It was made of a single piece of leather and was shaped to fit the wearer’s foot.
The stable, cool and dry conditions in the cave resulted in exceptional preservation of the various objects that were found, which included large containers, many of which held well preserved wheat and barley, apricots and other edible plants. 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 beautifully over the millennia!
“We thought initially that the shoe and other objects were about 600 700 years old because they were in such good condition,” said Dr Pinhasi. “It was only when the material was dated by the two radiocarbon laboratories in Oxford, UK, and in California, US that we realised that the shoe was older by a few hundred years than the shoes worn by tzi, the Iceman.”
Three samples were taken in order to determine the absolute age of the shoe and all three tests produced the same results. The archaeologists cut two small strips of leather off the shoe and sent one strip to the Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit at the University of Oxford and another to the University of California Irvine Accelerator Mass Spectrometry Facility. A piece of grass from the shoe was also sent to Oxford to be dated and both shoe and grass were shown to be the same age.
The shoe was discovered by Armenian PhD student, Ms Diana Zardaryan, of the Institute of Archaeology, Armenia, in a pit that also included a broken pot and sheep’s horns. “I was amazed to find that even the shoe laces were preserved,” she recalled. “We couldn’t believe the discovery,” said Dr Gregory Areshian, Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at UCLA, US, co director who was at the site with Mr Boris Gasparyan, co director, Institute of Archaeology, Armenia when the shoe was found. “The crusts had sealed the artefacts and archaeological deposits and artefacts remained fresh dried, just like they were put in a can,” he said.
The oldest known footwear in the world, to the present time, are sandals made of plant material, that were found in a cave in the Arnold Research Cave in Missouri in the US. Other contemporaneous sandals were found in the Cave of the Warrior, Judean Desert, Israel, but these were not directly dated, so that their age is based on various other associated artefacts found in the cave.
Interestingly, the shoe is very similar to the ‘pampooties’ worn on the Aran Islands (in the West of Ireland) up to the 1950s. “In fact, enormous similarities exist between the manufacturing technique and style of this shoe and those found across Europe at later periods, suggesting that this type of shoe was worn for thousands of years across a large and environmentally diverse region,” said Dr Pinhasi.
“We do not know yet what the shoe or other objects were doing in the cave or what the purpose of the cave was,” said Dr Pinhasi. “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 many chambers of the cave.
The research received funding from the National Geographic Society, the Chitjian Foundation (Los Angeles), US, Mr Joe Gfoeller of the Gfoeller Foundation of US, the Steinmetz Family Foundation,US, the Boochever Foundation, US, and the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, UCLA, US.
For further information contact Dr Ron Pinhasi, Archaeology Department, University College Cork, Ireland Tel 00 353 21 4904245 on the 9th June or 00 353 87 2655134 or 00 353 1 2605870 on the 10th June or Ms Ruth Mc Donnell, Research Information Officer, University College Cork, Ireland Tel 00 353 21 4902758 W or 00 353 87 7957904 or 00 353 21 4543230 H
Citation: Pinhasi R, Gasparian B, Areshian G, Zardaryan D, Smith A, et al. (2010) First Direct Evidence of Chalcolithic Footwear from the Near Eastern Highlands. PLoS ONE 5(6): e10984. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The use of facial and somatic cues by humans has been studied mainly in western industrialized countries, leaving unanswered whether results are valid across cultures.
Methodology/Principal Findings: Our objectives were to test (i) if previous finding about raters’ ability to get accurate information about an individual by looking at his facial photograph held in low income non western rural societies and (ii) whether women and men differ in this ability. To answer the questions we did a study during July August 2007 among the Tsimane’, a native Amazonian society of foragers farmers in Bolivia. We asked 40 females and 40 males 16 years of age to rate four traits in 93 facial photographs of other Tsimane’ males. The four traits were based on sexual selection theory, and included health, dominance, knowledge, and sociability. The rating scale for each trait ranged from one (least) to four (most). The average rating for each trait was calculated for each individual in the photograph and regressed against objective measures of the trait from the person in the photograph. We found that (i) female Tsimane’ raters were able to assess facial cues related to health, dominance, and knowledge and (ii) male Tsimane’ raters were able to assess facial cues related to dominance, knowledge, and sociability.
Conclusions/Significance: Our results support the existence of a human ability to identify objective traits from facial cues, as suggested by evolutionary theory.
Funding: The Cultural and Physical Anthropology Programs, National Science Foundation (NSF) (BCS 0134225, BCS 0200767, BCS 0322380), provided funding for this research. DTAE is supported by an NSF Graduate Research Fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript.