What type of shoes are you wearing now? Canvas shoes? Sneakers? Leather shoes? Or slip-ons? Or none of them? There are hundreds and thousands of shoes on the market today, but have you ever thought of what their prototype looked like? When did humans begin wearing footwears? Did the shoes then have shoelaces with them?
Let us travel to a corner on earth and seek for the historical traces of human footwears.
To start off our trip, let’s take a look at this slip-on-like moccasin shoes
Quite Mediterranean, right? Indeed, this pair of moccasin shoes originated from the Balkans which is around the area where we now call “Greece”. The locals refer to it as “opanke” (translated as “opanak”). This may be much to your surprise, but opanke looks perfectly similar to the currently-discovered oldest shoes on earth (Ravilious, 2010).
In 2008, a group of archaeologists were surveying a historical site in Armenia, a country in mid-Asia which is located right next to Turkey. A well-preserved leather shoe made out of cowhide was found. Through radioactive carbon dating, this shoe may be traced back to the Copper Period (aka. Chalcolithic Period, from 3,653 B.C. to 3,627 B.C.), which is somewhere in-between the Stone Age and the Bronze Age. That is to say, this ageless loafer has already stood the test of time for over 5,500 years and can be considered as the most old-fashioned shoe found so far (Pinhasi et al, 2010).
As it was unearthed from a karst cave named “Areni-1”, the archaic moccasin shoe is thus dubbed “Areni-1 Shoe”. According to Prof. Pinhasi and his colleagues, Areni-1 shows human activity spanning from 4th century B.C. to the medieval period (5-15 A.D.) This mysterious shoe by chance belongs to someone living in the 4th century B.C. After measurement, it should be a female right-foot about 24.5 centimeters (US size 7) in length. Saying thus, we cannot conclude that the owner of this shoe was exactly a female as human physical conditions may differ from time to time (Pinhasi et al, 2010).
Upon discovering the ancient footwear, “loose, unfastened grass without clear orientation” was found within, and was suggested to “provide warmth and protection” for the wearer (Pinhasi et al, 2010, p.2). Furthermore, the shoe was formed through a single piece of cowhide, contemporarily known as “whole-cut” (Ravilious, 2010). The owner brilliantly fixed the leather round by stitching leather-made shoelaces through 15 holes drilled on the whole-cut leather (Pinhasi et al, 2010). As the wearer slowly wrapped the hide tight with the shoelaces, an authentic, durable and even fashionable leather shoe is now on the market.
So, now you know what the age-old-est shoes look like. Amazing right? That people from the past were so full of wisdom that they already knew how to make shoes with self-made shoelaces. What’s more, these shoes were probably one of the fanciest and most practical things at the time. I’ve also become so much intrigued by the findings of these archaeologists that a future trip to Armenia should be planned to resolve my deep-felt longings. Well, if you happened to find a new design by MACHIEN Inc. closely resembling Mediterranean artifacts, then you now know where to find me.
- Pinhasi et al. (2010). First direct evidence of Chalcolithic footwear from the near Eastern highlands. PLoS ONE, 5(6) : e10984 DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0010984. Retrieved from https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0010984
- Ravilious, K. (2010). World’s oldest leather shoe found—Stunningly preserved. National Geographic. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2010/6/100609-worlds-oldest-leather-shoe-armenia-science/