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Czechs cobble new line in prehistoric footwear

Discussion in 'General Issues and Discussion Forum' started by Hylton Menz, Jul 18, 2005.

  1. Hylton Menz

    Hylton Menz Guest

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    From today's Age newspaper:

    Czechs cobble new line in prehistoric footwear


    Shoes worn by a 5300-year-old iceman have been replicated using leather tanned with boiled liver and pig brains.

    Now they are set to go into commercial production after getting rave reviews bymountain climbers and backpackers.

    Dr Petr Hlavacek, a Czech university department head and expert on footwear, spent years recreating the mountain boots found on the mummified body of Oetzi the Iceman, discovered in a frozen glacier in the Italian Alps in 1991.

    The shoes made from calf, bear and deer leather were given to some of the Czech Republic's top climbers to test in mountain conditions, and were so highly praised that a Czech footwear company has sought to acquire the rights to make them.

    Dr Hlavacek, head of the technological laboratory at Tomas Bata University in Zlin, in eastern Czech Republic, said: "Wearing the shoes is like going barefoot, only better. They are very comfortable and are perfect for protecting your feet against hard terrain, hot temperatures and the cold.

    "They may not look very attractive, but from a technical point of view they are very strong, sound and able to protect the wearer's feet against hard ground, extreme temperatures and damp. They also have a very good grip and withstand shock very well."

    Oetzi, the world's oldest and best-preserved mummy, was found accidentally in the Italian Alps close to the Austrian border in 1991. The find was considered sensational by scientists because the body was so well preserved and gave an insight into the life of humans in Europe 5000 years ago.

    They were later able to tell that the man, nicknamed Oetzi after the Oetz Valley where he was found, had eaten venison for his last meal and had lived in what is now the South Tyrolean village of Feldthurn, about 50 kilometres south-east of where he died. A museum was set up in Bozen, South Tyrol, to house the ice mummy, while clothes and other items found with him are on display in other museums.

    It was after a visit to a museum in Mainz, Germany, that Dr Hlavacek and his university colleague, Vaclav Gresak, decided to make a replica of the shoes that Oetzi was wearing when he died.

    They began by sourcing the same materials as Oetzi would have had for his shoes. Tests showed that the leather on the soles was from three animals: calf, deer and bear. Sourcing bear skin proved challenging, with Mr Gresak finally getting hold of the skin of a bear hunted in Canada.

    Oetzi's shoes had also been stuffed with hay to provide an inner lining that provided warmth and comfort. The two researchers recreated a hand-made net made out of thin strips of bark that held the hay in the shoe in place. After unsuccessfully testing a range of tanning methods using vegetable fats, Mr Gresak tried boiled chopped pig liver and raw pig's brain, copying a method known to have been used by ancient people. The substance was smeared onto the skins and left for three days - and worked.

    They used casts of Oetzi's feet for exact measurements to make three perfect replicas of the shoes and a number of pairs in bigger sizes for mountaineers to test in the Austrian Alps near where Oetzi lived.

    Vaclav Patek, a Czech mountaineer who tried them out, said: "The shoes were a pleasant surprise. They were durable, warm and comfortable and far better than some of the modern shoes in the shops."

    Dr Hlavacek said there was a lot of interest in the shoes.

    "The shoes perform very well in rough terrain and there is commercial potential even if it's just from the many museums that want copies of the shoes for their collections. We will have to look for a replacement for the bear skin leather that is not easy to find, but other than that I don't see any problems in mass production," he said.

    He also believes the footwear could have positive health implications as they were very different to modern shoes and gave the wearer more contact with the contours of the ground.
  2. Cameron

    Cameron Well-Known Member

    Cool Hylton. A greater article and I am going to Czech in a couple of weeks but may not get to Zlin where there is a shoe museum. Still will try. Peter is the main man in shoe history and was out in Australia earlier this year. In my own research I am more convinced early humans wore footwear made from vegetable and animal skins because they could eat them. Fish skin shoes were common in Iceland and travellors would eat worn out shoes on long journeys. Believe or not they measured distance in the number of pairs of shoes required to complete the journey.

    How are you doing anyway?

  3. Hylton Menz

    Hylton Menz Guest


    Some more shoe history research:

    ‘Shoe’ - in for David Myers Medal winner

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    MAYA VERES – who completed the honours year of her Bachelor of Arts specialising in Archaeology at La Trobe University – has an unusual speciality: historic shoes.

    Her thesis was on shoes worn by boys at the Lysterfield Boys Farm where poor boys from inner Melbourne were given farming skills during the 1930’s depression.

    Ms Veres is now doing her PhD at La Trobe, studying colonial footwear found in various archaeological digs, including one in Sydney dating from 1792.

    She was also among last year’s most outstanding graduating undergraduate students who were recently awarded the prestigious David Myers Medal.

    The medal, commemorating La Trobe’s first Vice-Chancellor, is awarded annually by each Faculty. Ms Veres took out the medal for Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences.


  4. dipper

    dipper Active Member

    prehistoric footwear

    A very interesting article, many civilizations used hay to line there shoes, it goes without saying, that they were far more sensible about footwear than we are today, shoes were for protection, strength and comfort, where as these days shoes are seen more as an accessory, fashion being as it is the primal urge for buying ill fitting uncomfortable un breathable shoes

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