WASHINGTON - About 5,500 years ago someone in the mountains of Armenia put his best foot forward in what is now the oldest leather shoe ever found.
The well-preserved footwear was made of a single piece of leather, laced up the front and back, researchers reported yesterday in PLoS One, a journal of the Public Library of Science.
Worn and shaped by the wearer's right foot, the shoe was found in a cave along with other evidence of human occupation. It had been stuffed with grass, which dated to the same time as the shoe's leather, between 5,637 and 5,387 years ago.
"This is great luck," enthused archaeologist Ron Pinhasi of University College Cork in Cork, Ireland, who led the research team. "We normally only find broken pots, but we have very little information about the day-to-day activity" of these ancient people.
Previously, the oldest leather shoe discovered in Europe or Asia was on Otzi, the "Iceman" found frozen in the Alps a few years ago and dated to 5,375 and 5,128 years ago, a few hundred years more recent than the Armenian shoe.