The discovery came in a well-known cave in the Vayotz Dzor province of Armenia, near the town of Areni which is known for its wine industry. Vayotz Dzor sits on the border of Nakhichevan (An enclave of Azerbaijan) and Armenia, near the Armenian province of Ararat, which borders Turkey. The region is part of the Fertile Crescent, which is an area of the world where there first civilizations began.
The cave, Areni 1, is well known in the area due to it's high visibility and the amount of dwellings in the cave. Still, archaelogists had not expected to discover the oldest shoe in the world there. Initially, the team thought the shoe was 600-700 years old, due to the highly-preserved state it was in, but three seperate radiocarbon dating tests all gave the same results, that this was the oldest known shoe in the world.
The previous oldest shoes in the world were found on the feet of Otzi the Iceman, a 5300 year old body found frozen in an Austrian glacier. Both Otzi's shoes and the shoe from Areni, however, do not have the distinction of being the oldest known footwear in existence. The plant-fiber sandals found in Arnold Research Cave, Missouri outdate the Areni shoe by 2000-2500 years, although they are not technically shoes.
The Areni shoe is also remarkably similar to shoe styles that were around for thousands of years after that period, looking much like the pampooties that were popular in the Aran Islands of Ireland into the 1950's. So while the Areni shoe is the oldest shoe in the world, the style has lived on for millenia (Take THAT Air Jordan!)
Armenian PhD student Ms Diana Zardaryan, of the Institute of Archaeology in Armenia, is the archaelogist who found the shoe.
“I was amazed to find that even the shoe-laces were preserved,” she said.
The team involved in the dig included:
Lead author and co-director, Dr Ron Pinhasi, Archaeology Department, University College Cork, Cork
Mr Boris Gasparian, co-director, Institute of Archaeology and Enthography, National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Armenia
Ms Diana Zardaryan, Institute of Archaeology and Enthography, National Academy of Sciences, Republic of Armenia
Dr Gregory Areshian, co-director, Research Associate at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology, University of California, US
Dr Alexia Smith, Department of Anthropology of the University of Connecticut, US
Dr Guy Bar-Oz, Zinman Institute of Archaeology, University of Haifa, Israel
Dr Thomas Higham, Oxford Radiocarbon Accelerator Unit, University of Oxford, UK.
Written by Jed Bird