Friday, January 25, 2008

Earliest Shoe-Wearers Revealed by Toe Bones
People started wearing shoes around 40,000 years ago, according to a study on recently excavated small toe bones that belonged to an individual from China who apparently loved shoes.

Most footwear erodes over time. The earliest known shoes, rope sandals that attached to the feet with string, date to only around 10,000 B.C. For the new study, the clues were in middle toe bones that change during an individual's lifetime if the person wears shoes a lot.

"When you walk barefoot, your middle toes curl into the ground to give you traction as you push off," explained co-author Erik Trinkaus, who worked on the study with Hong Shang.

I was all set to start criticizing it, but they went and took the wind out of my sail. They did some cross-cultural comparisons with both recent and ancient specimens and the concept seems to hold. However, it's still just an association even though they've proposed a causal mechanism, so no total slam dunk. Interesting though. They used Neanderthals who were not thought to wear anything on their feet, which was criticized and replied to:

"Some individuals even today still don't wear shoes and live in very cold environments, such as in the hills of Eastern Bulgaria and Romania," he said.

Young'uns today seem to wear flip-flops at all times of the year up here in the northwest. It doesn't get much snow and sub-freezing temps but still, one can't help but wonder.