8,000-year-old shoes prove cave-dwellers were well-heeled
Some of the shoes found are more than 8,000 years old
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ancient, 8,000-year-old shoes found in a Missouri cave show that fashion in footwear is nothing new and, in fact, is much older than anyone thought. Scientists said Thursday that high-tech dating procedures indicate that the shoes are at least 2,000 years older than previously believed.
The shoes were found 40 years ago in the Arnold Research Cave in Missouri, but, due to the mixing of deposits around the shoes at the dig site, researchers were unable to assign an age to them.
Michael O'Brien of the University of Missouri and colleagues at Louisiana State University used an accelerator mass spectrometer to carbon-date the shoes. It dated the oldest shoes at up to 8,300 years old, the researchers reported in a study published Friday in the journal Science.
"I was surprised," O'Brien said Thursday. "I would have guessed 3,000 but not 8,000. I thought it was so outrageous that I took a second sample."
Some of the shoes were sandals with pointed toes. Others were round-toed slip-ons. "Some of them were round-cupped heels like on a bedroom slipper, others had sling-back heels like you find on women's shoes," O'Brien said.
Cushioned and durable
Most of the shoes were made with fibrous plants that could be woven into a tough fabric used for the top, bottom and sides of the footwear. O'Brien said the most common material was from a yucca-like plant called rattlesnake master. The leaves were dried and shaped into cording that was woven like modern-day espadrilles.
Both sandal and slip-on styles were found There were also comfort innovations. The moccasins were cushioned with grass that functioned "like a Dr. Scholl's foot pad," said O'Brien.
"There's nothing new under the sun," he said. "Some of these shoes you would swear were made in a Mexican market."
The shoes were also very durable, he said. Of 35 samples recovered, 20 were complete or nearly complete. Even though the shoes spanned thousands of years, O'Brien said the basic craftsmanship was about the same.
"They did not invent something flimsy that then got better over time," said O'Brien. "The earliest shoe is every bit as well-made and as complex as those from later on."
'They wore the heck out of these things'
O'Brien said the variety of styles and differences in details suggests that there may have been concessions to style or fashion. "There was no ornamentation or color that we know about, but my guess is that these shoes were very stylish for the time," he said. "We know that people then were wearing jewelry," and that it was likely that such artistic interest carried over into the footgear.
Only the moccasins were made of leather, and O'Brien said it is likely that the cave dwellers did not use leather for shoes much earlier than that. The style and construction of the Missouri shoes are similar to specimens unearthed from a nearby site in the Ozark Mountains but are different from shoes found in caves in Kentucky. They are also very different from shoes constructed by the Anasazi people who inhabited Southwest deserts.
Footwear got hard use among the prehistoric Americans. They had to walk most places since there were no horses. They had to hunt or gather all of their food and to haul water back to the cave -- all jobs that took much walking. "Many of the shoes wore down exactly the way that our shoes do -- the ball of the foot and the heel," said O'Brien. "In some instances there were repairs where they wove fiber back into them. Other shoes were just tossed, but they wore the heck out of these things."
A woman's 8 1/2
Foot size, he said, appears to be much like that of modern humans. There is no way to tell if wearers of the ancient shoes were male or female, but the average length was about 10 1/2 inches -- about an 8 1/2 in modern American women's sizes.
"That suggests that these people fell within the size range of people today," he said. The cave, which is in a bluff not far from the Missouri River, was a spectacular home by the standards of the time.
"It was really perfect," said O'Brien. "A great place to live." O'Brien said that people lived there for hundreds of generations, leaving layer after layer of debris: bone and stone tools, animal bones, char from campfires and even some human remains. Late in the occupancy, there were shards of pottery. "The cave is so dry and has been for the last 10,000 years that all this stuff is preserved," he said.
O'Brien said the finding was not a huge scientific breakthrough, but interesting nevertheless. "To be honest," he said, "I think people think this is pretty cool stuff." The Associated Press and Reuters
Farmhouse discovered 1,000 years older than Pyramids
A farmhouse which was built 1,000 years before the pyramids has been unearthed in a Scottish field.
University researchers found the 80ft long and 30ft wide house complete with living rooms, bedrooms and a kitchen.
Archaeologists say the 6,000-year-old structure suggests Neolithic people were engineers as skilled and intelligent as modern man.
The house was found during an examination of Auchenlaich, the longest Stone Age burial cairn in Britain, near Callander in Perthshire. Its walls were made from massive timber posts, and split into separate compartments by light wooden partitions.
Dr. Gordon Barclay, of Stirling University, said: "There is nothing like it anywhere else in Europe. It is an enormous, very sophisticated piece of engineering, built to last." Because there were no metal nails, the house was made almost entirely from timber shaped to fit together with timber pegs, reports the Daily Telegraph.
Dr Barclay said: "They had cattle, pigs and sheep as well as cereals such as wheat and barley. Their tools, such as fine polished axes, were made from stone which they would have quarried nearby."
Stone Age clothing more advanced than thought
Think of life for women in the Stone Age and you've probably got them in crudely fashioned dresses made of animal skin, perhaps being dragged across the cave floor by their hair. Now think finely woven hats, belts and skirts - and a place in the highest echelons of society. That's what a new discovery tells us about women and their clothes in the upper Paleolithic.
"It all began when we discovered and studied impressions of textiles and basketry and nets on little pieces of hard clay," explains Olga Soffer, an archeologist at the University of Illinois. "We saw an enormous diversity in loom-weaving, including plain weave, twining, and a good deal of basketry as well as nets."
The signs of the sophisticated weaving technologies were found on over 90 pieces of clay in the Czech Republic dated at about 27,000 years ago. That makes them the earliest evidence of weaving. It was previously assumed that weaving didn't come about until 5,000 to 10,000 years ago during the Neolithic period.
Soffer then compared the clay pieces to the so-called "Venus" figurines, which are also dated to about the same time, about 25,000 years ago. After careful study, she and her team identified fine detailing showing different weaving methods. And different items of clothing depending on which part of Europe the Venus figurines came from.
Those from western Europe were adorned with basket hats or caps, belts worn at the waist and what Soffer calls a bandeau - a strap of cloth that wrapped around the body right above the breast.
Finding the same weaving technologies depicted on the Venus women, who most probably wore them in rituals, rather than as everyday wear, also tells Soffer that women associated with weaving probably held a high position in society.
"We know from the textile impressions that the weaving can be very very fine. We know the fine weaving takes a lot of time," says Soffer. "What the Venus figurines is telling us, is that this technology of making clothes was important enough to be immortalized in stone.
A lot of us suppose that if it's important enough to be in iconography, it is very important in those societies, likely giving these women positions of status."
Soffer and her team have also found some tools made of bone and ivory of about the same age. Although they are still working on the tools, they appear to be net gauges, spindle needles and weaving sticks.
Source: Discovery Channel (3 February, 2000)
Woven cloth dates back 27,000 years
2nd Story on 27,000 year old Woven cloth
Clay bearing a textile imprint together with a cast By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse Woven clothing was being produced on looms 27,000 years ago, far earlier than had been thought, scientists say.
It had been thought that the first farmers developed weaving 5,000 to 10,000 years ago. But Professor Olga Soffer, of the University of Illinois, is about to publish details in the journal Current Anthropology of 90 fragments of clay that have impressions from woven fibres.
Professor Soffer revealed some her findings recently when she said that a 25,000-year-old figurine was wearing a woven hat. If confirmed, her work could change our understanding of distant ancestors, the so-called Ice Age hunters of the Upper Palaeolithic Stone Age.
The evidence was obtained from a number of sites in the Czech Republic. They were the sporadic homes of the Gravettian people who roamed between Southern Russia and Spain between 22,000 and 29,000 years ago scratching out a living on a semi-frozen landscape. Some of the fibre impressions may have been made accidentally, such as by sitting on a fresh clay floor or when wet clay was carried in woven bags.
"Other impressions may have been caused by deliberate action, such as lining a basket with clay to make it watertight," said Professor Soffer.
A detailed examination of the impressions reveals a large variety of weaving techniques. There are open and closed twines, plain weave and nets. Professor Soffer told BBC News Online that twining can be done by hand but plain weave needed a loom. It may be that many stone artefacts found in settlements may not be objects of art as had been supposed but parts of an ancient loom, which should now be considered as the first machine to be made after the wheel and aids such as the axe, club, and flint knife.
This research could force a re-evaluation of our view of ancient man, who lived tens of thousands of years ago, before the last Ice Age had ended and before the invention of agriculture. The traditional view is of the male Ice Age hunters working in groups to kill large prey such as mammoths. But this may be a distorted and incomplete view of their lives.
All that scientists have from these ancient times are mostly solid remains such as stone, ivory and bone. Now they have evidence of textiles. The discovery that they developed weaving as early as 27,000 years ago means that we must consider the role that women and children may have played more carefully.
The possibility that they made nets has fascinating implications according to Professor Soffer. It may be that nets were used by women and children to catch small prey such as hares and foxes.
By catching food this way, women and children could have made all the difference to their communities' food budgets, allowing a surplus to be generated that permitted society to grow. Further revelations are to be expected in this area of research. There are recent reports that fragments of burnt textiles have been found adhering to pieces of flint.
From the Beginning of Time, Women Have Cared for Their Hair
Click and drag photo to resize.Source:Matters of the Body: Literal Interpretations of Prehistoric Art
"From the beginning of time, women have cared for their hair. The famous Ice Age statuettes known as the Venus of Willendorf and of Brassempouy show clear evidence of stylised hair.
Perhaps 30,000 years old, these statuettes reveal that at least some women in the society took care about how their hair looked and had a concept of beauty and attractiveness. Considerable labor was required to have created the hairstyles of these statuettes. There are also small clay figurines from Butmir (left)in Bosnia illustrating short, neatly combed hair, which are up to 7,000 years old." Source: Eras of Elegance: A Brief History of Hair
"The Butmir Culture. The Butmir site near Sarajevo (BiH), excavated by Vaclav Radimsky, created great interest among prehistorians because of the highly artistic sense expressed in the idols there. For a long time only one site was known, but in 1949 Alojz Benac discovered a new site at Nebo (another site at Kraljevica near Novi Seher was found long ago).
All of these settlements belonged to the Butmir Culture, but were not occupied during the same period of time -- Novi Seher being older and Nebo being younger than the Butmir site. Stone knives, arrowheads, and axes were found. Ceramics were baked red, brown, and yellow.
White paint was applied before baking and red afterwards. Some characteristic forms include vases on pedestals, amphorae, beakers, and knob-like or pear-shaped jars. Ornamentation consisted of ribbons, triangles, rhomboids, and spiral made in the form or a combination of C-shaped and S-shaped letters... Source: Prehistoric Archaeology: The New Stone Age