Do You Have that in a Size 38?: World’s oldest shoe to go on display in Yerevan

What is believed to be the world’s oldest shoe, subject of recent international news, is scheduled to go on display in the upcoming days at the History Museum of Armenia in Yerevan.

The shoe, dug from an archeological excavation in Armenia’s Vayots Dzor province, was discovered in 2007, however it took until now for radiocarbon tests to confirm that it is some 5,000 years old. Even though Irish and American scientists participated in the archeological excavations, Pavel Avetisyan, Director of the Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography, says that the shoe will stay in Armenia, because the Armenian legislation does not allow removing a national historical-cultural treasure from the country.

Nevertheless, the right-footed, undecorated 37-size shoe, stuffed with straw, must be taken out of Armenia probably to Switzerland or Germany where it will be treated for preservation.

When archeologists found the leather shoe, it was so elastic that they managed to bend it. Avetisyan explains that this is determined by the fact that the cave, where the shoe was found, has a dry microclimate which delays the natural process of decomposition.

“Now it [the leather shoe] started to get hard, so it is necessary to treat it with special materials, so that it does not spoil, and to bring it back to Armenia,” Avetisyan says.

At the beginning scientists were skeptical whether the shoe dated back to 3600-3500 BC. They thought it could have been from medieval times and appeared in the cave by chance. Four samples were sent to Oxford University and to the University of California to undergo radiocarbon analysis.

“This is the first case when the shoe itself and not the area where it was found, was dated. So it means that the artifact itself speaks about its dating. In other cases, we have an archeological-cultural layer, where among other things, for example, a shoe may be found, and we say that the shoe belongs to that layer. In this case, both the layer and the shoe are dated. Thus, the datum provided by the shoe is the most trustworthy one,” Avetisyan concludes.