Friday, June 16, 2017

Prehistoric ice shoes: Good as new

Petr Hlaváček is a shoe savant and is best-known for his projects of making replicas of shoes worn by prehistoric men. Throughout his career, Petr worked on many types of research which changed our understanding of footwear in history. As an academic he studied the shoes of Ötzi the Iceman, the sandals from Fort Rock Cave in Oregon, the footwear of the Terracotta Army, the boots of Albrecht von Wallenstein, and Byzantine sandals from Turkey, among many others. His research projects include the shoe fragments from the Qumran Caves and the sandal of Masada in Israel. Hlaváček made replicas of these shoes, and road tested them for comfort.

Together with his team, he made three exact replicas of the Iceman’s shoes and five additional pairs to varying sizes . The team punctiliously sourced the deer, bearskin, and calf hide that were used for the soles of the shoes and managed to track down a piece of pelt that was from a bear. The shoe leather was tanned with boiled pig’s liver and pig’s brain. For added comfort a layer of hay was placed inside the shoes.

To road test the Ötzi’s shoes a hill climbing party including mountain-climbing shoe designer, Vaclav Patek went on a hike in the Alps wearing the prehistoric footwear. In three days, they climbed over 4,900 feet often tramping through ice water. At the end of the trip Patek, claimed the prehistoric mountain shoes were as comfortable as anything he had worn.

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