Originally created 05/11/05

Archaeologists find 2,000-year-old shoe



LONDON - Now this is an old shoe.

Archaeologists said Tuesday they found a 2,000-year-old shoe hidden in a hollow tree used to construct an ancient well near Wellington in southwest England.

"As far as we know, this is the oldest shoe ever found in the United Kingdom," said Stephen Reed, who led the team from Exeter Archaeology that made the find. "It is reasonably well-preserved, with stitch and lace holes still visible in the leather."

The shoe is being studied in Salisbury, southwest England, and is expected to be displayed at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

It was found when the owners of Whiteball Quarry began working in the area where a Bronze Age iron-smelting site had been discovered in 1989.

Nearby, researchers from Exeter Archaeology found two water troughs, along with two timber-lined wells, that they said probably dated from the early part of the Iron Age - 700 B.C. to A.D. 43.

One well had been built over a spring using a hollow tree trunk set into the ground. The tree trunk was removed for study in a laboratory, which found the shoe, Reed said.

The shoe is nearly 12 inches long, suggesting its owner was male, archaeologists said.

"These sort of things don't really survive at all on the archaeological record, usually because they rot," Reed said.

He said the shoe was the first of its kind to be found in Britain, although a few others of a similar age have been discovered in continental Europe.