The world’s oldest known leather shoe…struck one of the world’s best known shoe designers as shockingly au courant. “It is astonishing,” Blahnik said via email, “how much this shoe resembles a modern shoe!”
Stuffed with grass, perhaps as an insulator or an early shoe tree, the 5,500-year-old moccasin-like shoe was found exceptionally well preserved—thanks to a surfeit of sheep dung—during a recent dig in an Armenian cave.
About as big as a current women’s size seven (U.S.), the shoe was likely tailor-made for the right foot of its owner, who could have been a man or a woman—not enough is known about Armenian feet of the era to say for sure…
“The hide had been cut into two layers and tanned, which was probably quite a new technology,” explained Ron Pinhasi, co-director of the dig, from University College Cork in Ireland.
Yvette Worrall, a shoemaker for the Conker handmade-shoe company in the U.K., added, “I’d imagine the leather was wetted first and then cut and fitted around the foot, using the foot as a last [mold] to stitch it up there and then.”
The end result looks surprisingly familiar for something so ancient—and not just to Blahnik…
Footwear of this age is incredibly rare, because leather and plant materials normally degrade very quickly.
But in this case the contents of a pit in the cave, dubbed Areni-1, had been sealed in by several layers of sheep dung, which accumulated in the cave after its Copper Age human inhabitants had gone.
Of course, the pecorino poop requires studying, as well.