|11 May 2005
Iron-Age shoe discovered in UK
A team from Exeter Archeology has unearthed what may be the oldest shoe in the UK. Stephen Reed and his team unearthed the relic from a hollowed out tree trunk at the Whitehall Quarry, near Wellington, Somerset (Southwest England), in what was once an ancient Iron-Age (700 BCE-43 CE) smelting site discovered in 1989. The shoe, approximately a Men's size 9 or 10, has remained intact with lacing holes and stitching still visible. What type of animal leather the shoe is constructed of is being examined.
Stephen Reed, lead for Team Exeter explained, "The importance about this shoe is that these sort of things don't really survive at all on the archeological record, usually because they rot down." Mr. Reed also said that finds like these are of National importance due to the rarity of wood surviving from this period and the presence of diagnostic tool marks on the sides of the timber. The shoe had been water-logged by a timber-built dam inside the hollowed out tree trunk. These dam's were simple wells built over a stream and covered by a hollow tree trunk that was set into the ground.
Quarry owner Mr. Hanson is now working with teams from Exeter Archeology, Devon County Council and the English Heritage, along with other experts. Finds from the site are being properly recorded and treated.
Following conservation and further study, the shoe, which Stephen Reed says " As far as we know, this is the oldest shoe in the UK" will be on display at the Royal Albert Museum in Exeter. As to why the shoe was left inside the tree trunk so many years ago, that is the mystery. It may have been left there symbolically, or perhaps was just left behind in the mud.
Sources: BBC News, The Guardian, MSNBC, Sky.com (10 May 2005)
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