Written by Frank Cotolo
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Topics: London, England

Tuesday, 10 May 2005

image for Ancient shoe found
An archaeologist inspects an ancient shoe.

LONDON - Archaeologists say they found a 2,000-year-old shoe lodged in a hollow tree near Wellington in southwest England.

"We found a shoe," says archaeologist Sam Shell. "As far as we know, it is the oldest shoe ever found in the United Kingdom. Although we are not sure how many shoes have actually been found in the United Kingdom. At least not old shoes, or, at least not shoes this old."

The team from Finding Stuff Archaeology was searching for something entirely different on the site of a modern day quarry, so they were amazed to find a shoe.

"We thought it would be more likely to find a glove or a hat," says Wendell Makenshaft, a member of the team. "I can't say I recall what we were originally looking for. But it didn't matter once we found the old shoe."

"It is well-preserved," Shell says. "We think it is a left-footed shoe."

"It could be a size seven," says Joshua Porksmolder, another member of the team. "Might have been hand made if it is 2,000 years old. I don't know much about the history of shoes, but I am almost sure there were no shoe-making machines that long ago."

Shell says the team has never found anything newer than 2,000 years old, so the shoe has to be at least 2,000 years old. "From the shape it is in," Shell says, "it certainly cannot be a shoe that is, say, even 1,000 years old. And even though it is worn down and rotted, the style of the shoe dates back to when there were styles of shoes like this. So, we figure 2,000 years old places the shoe in its proper historic perspective."

Conservationists in Salisbury, southwest England, agree, and say they will display the shoe at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter. "Remarkable find," says conservatory expert Brent Barkencorpusle. "Even if they cannot find the matching one in the pair."

"At first we thought it could be a shoe dating from the early part of the Iron Age," says Porksmolder. "But the shoe is not made of iron, so that theory is out."
"We think because the shoe is so long that its owner was male," more team archaeologists say. "Either that or a woman with a very long foot."

An historian says the shoe may have been left for symbolic reasons. Holster Buck, an historian with Her Majesty's Historic Field Group, says, "A shoe left in a tree could mean that the person who placed it there was sending a message to people who might find the shoe in the future."

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