California Science & Technology News

Ancient Shoes Turn Up in Egypt Temple

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More than 2,000 years ago, at a time when Egypt was ruled by a dynasty of kings of Greek descent, someone, perhaps a group of people, hid away some of the most valuable possessions they had — their shoes.

Seven shoes were deposited in a jar in an Egyptian temple in Luxor, three pairs and a single one. Two pairs were originally worn by children and were only about 7 inches (18 centimeters) long. Using palm fiber string, the child shoes were tied together within the single shoe (it was larger and meant for an adult) and put in the jar. Another pair of shoes, more than 9 inches (24 cm) long that had been worn by a limping adult, was also inserted in the jar.

The shoe-filled jar, along with two other jars, had been "deliberately placed in a small space between two mudbrick walls," writes archaeologist Angelo Sesana in a report published in the journal Memnonia. PHOTOS: Fancy Footwear From Ancient Egypt

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Whoever deposited the shoes never returned to collect them, and they were forgotten, until now. [See Photos of the Ancient Egyptian Shoes]

In 2004, an Italian archaeological expedition team, led by Sesana, rediscovered the shoes. The archaeologists gave André Veldmeijer, an expert in ancient Egyptian footwear, access to photographs that show the finds.

"The find is extraordinary as the shoes were in pristine condition and still supple upon discovery," writes Veldmeijer in the most recent edition of the Journal of the American Research Center in Egypt. Unfortunately after being unearthed the shoes became brittle and "extremely fragile," he added.

Pricey shoes

Veldmeijer's analysis suggests the shoes may have been foreign-made and were "relatively expensive." Sandals were the more common footwear in Egypt and that the style and quality of these seven shoes was such that "everybody would look at you," and "it would give you much more status because you had these expensive pair of shoes," said Veldmeijer, assistant director for Egyptology of the Netherlands-Flemish Institute in Cairo.

The date of the shoes is based on the jar they were found in and the other two jars, as well as the stratigraphy, or layering of sediments, of the area. It may be possible in the future to carbon date the shoes to confirm their age

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