The protective ability of shoes is obvious, and would have been equally obvious in ancient times when early modern humans walked the earth. Nevertheless, researchers have long debated exactly when ancient humans developed the cognitive capacity to invent this most useful of all human innovations. A new study from the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, provides new and surprising evidence that may influence this debate. This evidence suggests that the earliest shoes may have been worn from 75,000 years ago to 150,000 years ago. It dates back to the Mesolithic period.
To put into perspective what an amazing find this is, the oldest shoe discovered in Europe to date is only 6,200 years old. As for South Africa, previous research suggests that people living on the land of what is now South Africa began making and wearing shoes about 2,000 years ago. It was thought that shoes would not have been as necessary in this region as people living further from the equator because their feet would not be exposed to dangerous levels of cold.
But the story of how shoes emerged in southern Africa may now need to be rewritten, according to paleoanthropologists at the Institute of Evolution at the University of the Witwatersrand who took part in this groundbreaking new study. He says there is no.
Evidence of the ancient shoes they manufactured comes from analysis of a series of fossil marks carved into the surfaces of three ancient rocks along South Africa’s Cape Coast. The marks resemble those made by certain types of shoes, and the researchers provided compelling data that suggests the similarities may be more than just a coincidence.
“We all believed that humans were habitually barefoot. [tens of thousands of years ago]” explained Dr. Bernhard Ziffel. University of the Witwatersrand press release. “But the Southern Cape coast had very sharp rocks at the time. It makes sense that people would wear shoes to protect themselves. 100,000 years ago, foot injuries could have been fatal. yeah.”
Geological dating techniques determined that the inscribed surfaces were between 75,000 and 150,000 years old, revealing that these inscriptions were indeed incredibly old. Researchers believe these areas were probably coastal in ancient times.
Evidence of ancient footwear comes from fossilized traces that appear to be made by shoes (representative image). public domain.
Find a needle in a haystack (or a shoe print on an ancient beach)
Naturally, ancient footwear would have been made of comfortable and durable organic materials, such as leather or plant materials. Over thousands of years, the shoes themselves deteriorated and disintegrated, leaving shoe prints left by people walking on wet ground (e.g. along the coast) as the only evidence that such shoes ever existed. It would have been left behind.
Naturally, this type of truck is very rare and difficult to find. And even if something interesting is discovered, researchers can only discuss it. probability Such marks are most likely shoe prints, as absolute evidence is always lacking (there are no extant ancient shoe samples that can be conclusively matched to such marks).
So far, only four sites have been found that meet the criteria for inclusion in the list of potential footprint sites dating back 30,000 years or earlier, all in Western Europe (interestingly, one of them is a Neanderthal ). But research in ichthyology (the study of fossilized ground footprints and footprints left by animals and humans) is on the rise, and the search for further evidence for ancient human footwear is rapidly increasing. There is. It is in the context of this development that researchers seek to learn more about the behavior and movements of ancient humans through this kind of fascinating evidence, and it is in the context of this development that the footprints along the coast of South Africa were discovered.
To confirm that the footprints they analyzed were indeed shoeprints, researchers at the University of the Witwatersrand used several different types of simple shoes, similar or identical to those made and worn by ancient people. I created footwear. They then wore these shoes and walked up and down the beaches of Cape Coast, creating a series of footprints in both wet and dry sand.
Ancient humans may have worn shoes made of animal skin or plant material. sauce: golodenkov / Adobe Stock.
Researchers were able to make the most illuminating comparisons by using computer-generated images of both new and old trucks. They identified three fossilized footprints in Cape Coast that were most likely made by humans wearing ancient footwear between 75,000 and 150,000 years ago, or during the Mesolithic period. These tracks are a near-perfect match for modern recreation, and should be enough to make researchers around the world rethink what they thought they knew about the history of footwear.
Dr. Zipfel, a paleoanthropologist and podiatrist (though admittedly a unique combination of professions), believes that the ancient humans who made footprints produced a very early form of what we today know as pluckies or flips. I believe he was wearing it. Flop. Recent discoveries have revealed that the San (Bushmen), an extant hunter-gatherer culture that has lived in southern Africa for at least 20,000 years, have long worn comfortable but sturdy sandals. So it’s no surprise that ancient inhabitants of the region wore shoes similar to these, Dr. Ziffel concludes.
“It was important that these shoes withstand environmental challenges,” he said.
The ancient shoes may have been an early form of pluckies or flip-flops. sauce: Michelle Burgess / Adobe Stock.
Put on your comfortable shoes and take a long walk back in time.
Although the study is interesting and important, the researchers acknowledge that it cannot be accepted as definitive proof of anything. But they still consider their research a real breakthrough.
“Although our evidence is not conclusive, we are still pleased with our findings,” Dr. Zipfel said. We are also contributing to the study of when humans first wore shoes…It is noteworthy that our findings strongly suggest that regions of southern Africa wore shoes. Masu. It was a base for developing cognitive and practical skills over a long period of time. ”
Archaeologists and paleoanthropologists know that people may have been traveling along South Africa’s coast wearing footwear tens of thousands of years ago, so they are searching for further evidence to support this theory. . Footprints carved into rocks that would have previously been ignored or overlooked may now be discovered and properly identified, and the truth about the ancient origins of shoes may finally be revealed. allow it to be revealed.
Top image: Ancient shoes made from animal skin. Credit: German Mining Museum.
Written by Nathan Falde