I've been poking around in the Upper Paleolithic these days, and while I was there I discovered that Erik Trinkaus, whose papers are always interesting anyway, has recently been chasing down evidence of foot coverings in these ancient of days.
Two articles of his that are pertinent are both in the Journal of Archaeological Science, one published in 2005 and another currently in press. In them, he argues that evidence for wearing protective covering on one's feet is reflected in toe morphology, in comparison to lower limb robusticity. In the most recent article, Trinkaus and co-author Hong Shang report that evidence showing comparative morphological gracility in the three middle toes exists in skeletons from the Upper Paleolithic site of Sunghir 1 (Russia, ~28,000 years ago) and the Middle Paleolithic site of Tianyuan Cave (China, ~40,000 years ago). The interesting thing about the last is that Tianyuan cave skeleton is one of those that looks primarily like Early Modern Humans but has some Neanderthal-like characteristics. If you believe in that sort of thing of course.
Pushing the shoe event horizon back to 40,000 years ago, very interesting indeed.
More info on each of these issues can be found here:
- History of Footwear (Part I, not that I'm planning Part II)
- Tianyuan Cave (China)
- Sunghir I (Russia)
- The Shoe Event Horizon (Douglas Adams)
The two pertinent articles are:
Trinkaus, Erik (2005). Anatomical evidence for the antiquity of human footwear use. Journal of Archaeological Science, 32(10), 1515-1526. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2005.04.006
Trinkaus, Erik and Hong Shang in press (2008). Anatomical evidence for the antiquity of human footwear: Tianyuan and Sunghir. Journal of Archaeological Science in press. DOI: 10.1016/j.jas.2007.12.002