World's oldest leather shoe discovered

June 10, 2010 at 8:46 AM
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CORK, Ireland, June 10 (UPI) -- An Irish-led international team of scientists says it has found what is believed to be the oldest leather shoe in the world -- a 5,500-year-old cowhide shoe.

The perfectly preserved shoe, 1,000 years older than the Great Pyramid of Giza in Egypt, was found in an Armenian cave by archaeologists who said the shoe dates to 3,500 B.C. -- the Chalcolithic period.

The researchers said the show is made of a single piece of leather and shaped to fit the wearer's foot. Although traces of grass were found in the shoe, the archaeologists said they were uncertain whether the grass was to keep the foot warm or maintain the shape of the shoe.

Ron Pinhasi, a lecturer at University College Cork and the study's lead author, said the shoe was found in a cave in the Vayotz Dzor province of Armenia by doctoral student Diana Zardaryan of the Armenian Institute of Archaeology.

The research team also included Gregory Areshian of UCLA, Boris Gasparyan, co-director of the Armenian Institute of Archaeology, Diana Zardaryan of Armenia's National Academy of Sciences, University of Connecticut Assistant Professor Alexia Smith, Guy Bar-Oz of Israel's University of Haifa and Thomas Higham of Britain's University of Oxford.

The findings are detailed in the online journal PLoS One.

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