| 2 February 2008
Ancient bones suggest cavemen wore boots
Footwear, it seems, has been fashionable for rather a long time. Toe bones from a cave in China suggest people were wearing shoes at least 40,000 years ago. Erik Trinkaus and Hong Shang, from Washington University in St Louis, Missouri, measured the shape and density of toe bones from a 40,000-year-old skeleton found in Tianyuan cave near Beijing. They compared these bones with those from 20th century urban Americans, late-prehistoric Inuits and other late-prehistoric Native Americans.
Shoes alter the way a person walks. With a rigid sole the toes curl far less than when barefoot and less force is passed through the bones, leading to obvious differences in the three recent populations. "Modern shoe-wearing Americans have wimpy little toes," says Trinkaus. Barefoot native Americans have strong, large toes. Shoe-wearing Inuits lie somewhere in between. Trinkaus and Shang found that the Tianyuan toe bones were most similar to the Inuits', indicating that this person regularly wore shoes.
Source: NewScientist (27 January 2008)
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