Thursday, July 23, 2020

Tutankhamun’s Footwear Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear

Among the objects found in Tutankhamun’s tomb was a large collection of shoes and sandals. These are now housed in the Egyptian Museum, Cairo and the Luxor Museum. In the book by André J.Veldmeijer et al., entitled Tutankhamun’s Footwear Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear the 3,300-year-old footwear footwear is analyzed in detail. Several specialists contributed to the volume discussing the different materials (gold, vegetable fibre, birch bark, glass and faience, leather, gemstones) that were used in the footwear.

The footwear from the tomb of Yuya and Tjuiu, Tutankhamun’s great-grandparents, is also analysed for comparison.

It appears Tutankhamun had Kohler disease, and a club foot ( talipes equino varus ) on his left foot. On the second toe of the right foot he had no middle bone, making the toe shorter. The combination of the deformities necessitated he wore modified shoes.

Over 80 pieces of footwear of different sizes were buried with the boy king. Some had deteriorated, with only fragments or isolated straps remaining but others survived in decent condition. 81 specimens were studied in detail. Many sandals demonstrate the print of King Tut's foot on the sole. Two pairs of open shoes had the middle part of the sole stuffed for extra comfort. Three pairs had horizontal straps just below the toes; one pair also had semi-circular panels at the shoe's sides. These features are not known in any other footwear, sandal or shoe and the authors believe these additions may have been used to compensate for the foot deformities.

André J.Veldmeijer ,Alan J. Clapham, Erno Endenburg, Aude Gräzer, Fredrik Hagen, James A. Harrell, Mikko H. Kriek, Paul T. Nicholson, Jack M. Ogden, Gillian Vogelsang-Eastwood 2011 Tutankhamun’s Footwear Studies of Ancient Egyptian Footwear Heritage Key.

Interesting Read
Veldmeijer A 2017 Stepping Through Time: Footwear in Ancient Egypt BLKVLD

Wednesday, July 22, 2020

The Sandals of Ancient Egypt

(Ankh in the hand of goddess Image via Tangopaso Wikimedia Commons)

The first evidence of people settling along the Nile Delta dates to 5000 BCE and societies like the Amratian Society of the Upper Egypt forming in 4000 BCE. It was the Menes who eventually joined Upper and Lower Egypt into one kingdom in 3110 BCE. As reported in Ledger (1985) shoes made from fine leather were worn by the high born in 4000 BCE. History of ancient Egypt is broken into three Kingdoms i.e. The Old, The Middle, and the New Kingdom. The time period covers 3 millennium (2920 - 30 BCE) and during this time there were 30 Dynasties. The fortunes of Egypt rose and fell but as trade routes increased more influence from other civilisations became apparent in both costume and custom. The vast majority of Egyptians went barefoot most of the time, but those of higher stations wore various styles of sandals.

(Menes Palette, Egypt, c. 3100 BCE Image via Pinterest)

In the Old Kingdom (2686 BCE – 2181 BCE), kings of Egypt (not called Pharaohs until the New Kingdom) became living gods and ruled absolutely. The first King of Egypt was King Narmer who was depicted walking barefoot with his slave bearing sandals behind him (Turner Wilcox 1948, p2). This would suggest footwear was kept for special occasions and the custom was to have sandals carried to the point of destination, before being worn for the occasion. Bearers of sandals often received promotion as recorded by Weni the Elder in the 6th century (2323 -2152 BCE). By now Egypt was a major trading nation and enjoyed fabulous wealth. During the 7th and 8th Dynasty (2150 – 2135 BCE) famine prevailed with, civil disorder, and a high death rates until the political structure of the Old Kingdom finally collapsed. The 9th and 10th Dynasty (2135 -1986 BCE) saw Egypt split into the north, ruled from Herakleopolis, and the south, ruled from Thebes.

(Sandal Maker, Tomb of Rekhmire Image via Metropolitan Museum of Art)

During this time foreign trade again brought great riches with the building of many magnificent buildings and crafts like jewelry, prospered. Sandals dating to 2000 BCE were made from leather sandals and held next to the foot by plaited or woven thongs between the great and second toes, then wrapped around the ankles (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2.) The oldest images of shoemakers were found in frescoes in Thebes and were dated to 19th century BCE (Turner Wilcox 1948 p3). Shoemakers are depicted using implements similar to modern shoemaking tools.

(Ancient egyptian sandals Image via Pinterest)

Originally sandals were made from a footprint in wet sand. Braided papyrus was then moulded into soles and the sandals were attached by palm fibre thongs to keep them on the foot. The Egyptian sandal was held next to the foot by three ties or thongs. The main thong passed between the big and second toe and joined the other straps on the instep to form a stirrup and tied behind the heel. Alternatively, a thong between toe two and three with the others on the medial and lateral aspect of the midfoot was used. The sole was typically flat.

Once the Egyptians learned to tan hide, sandals were made with a leather sole (Girotti, 1986). Kings and their immediate families were the only Egyptians allowed to wear them (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2.). Allowances were made for high dignitaries and priests with the latter designated to wear footcovers made of fine basket work of white papyrus (Turner Wilcox 1948). One reason why priests did not wear leather sandals may have been to prevent them from contacting the hide of a dead animal (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2). Sandals were not worn in temples and other Holy Places (Turner Wilcox 1948p 3). Footwear did not differ according to sex. Soles were dyed and the sandals were made to accommodate right and left fittings (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2). High born Egyptian women often adorned their sandals with jewels and precious metal (Turner Wilcox 1948 p 3). Later sandals were also made from gazelle skin and became associated with active pursuits such as hunting.

( Amenemhet I Image via Quora)

Early Middle Kingdom (2055 BCE – 1650 BCE) shoes were little more than sandals with straps between the toes and joined to the sides at the heel with the upper leather just covering the foot without being fastened to the foot itself. The soles were plaided using strips of wood, rush , or flax. Alternatively they were made from untanned hide. An Asian influence become more apparent when King Amenemhet I (1991–1962 BC) started trade routes. The introduction of uppers would appear to add to the aesthetic of shoes and seem to be worn tight if illustrations dating between 200 BCE and 200AD depict corn cutters operating on feet incapacitated by tight uppers.

(Egyptian Plaited Reed Sandals Image via Sands of time)

Rush sandals were soled with leather. During the Middle Kingdom more robust footwear saw increasing use of sandals by soldiers and travellers (Lichtheim Vol II 1975). Sandals were adapted to work situations and butchers wore sandals made with a slice of cork sandwiched between two layers of leather on the sole and held together with small wooden pegs. The added height, sometimes 12 “ from the floor allowed butcher to cope with slaughtering animals. Sex workers from the Lower Egypt had a ‘follow me’ message on the sole of their sandals which left a tell all imprint in the sand. Cheaper sandals meant all but the very poor wore them.

(Hatshepsut Image via National Geographic)

King Thutmose I and his Queen Hat-Shep-Sut turned Egypt into a super power. The much loved Queen Hat-Shep-Sut (1479–1458 BCE ) wore bejewelled sandals. Her influence saw a rise in the popularity of sandal wearing and she actively fostered the sandal trade. Sandals took on the trappings of prosperity and authority.

(Sandals New Kingdom Image via Pinterest)

High quality footwear was made from ‘moroccan’ style leather with lamb and goat skins dyed scarlet, green and purple (Turner Wilcox 1948 p2). Priests wore papyrus or palm leaf sandals made so that they could be slipped on from the front or rear. Egyptian priests removed their shoes out of respect for their gods. It was also the custom to remove sandals in the presence of superior rank . Shoes were worn outside the house but never in the home and much later children wore red or green slippers.

(Ankh symbol Image via Pinterest)

The origin of the ancient symbol for life i.e. the Ankh (symbol for life) is unknown but Egyptologist, Sir Alan Gardiner thought insignia looked like a flattened thong. It might not be coincidence that the word ‘nkh” was used to describe the section of the sandal where a toe thong was attached. A common cure for headaches in ancient Egypt was to inhale the smoke from burning sandals.

(Ancient Egyptian sandals Image via Pinterest)

In the 18th Dynasty Thutmose III (1479–1425 BCE) ruled Egypt for almost fifty-four years During this time he undertook many military campaigns. The Pharaoh spoke of the countries he conquered, as the lands under his sandal. A wall painting in the city of Thebes shows craftsmen fashioning sandals during the time of Thutmose III). It was during this time the Jews remained captive in Egypt and many were taught the craft of sandal making. Jewish sandals were made from rush, linen, leather, or wood and were tied to the feet with thongs. Soldiers wore heavier leather shoes and the custom was to stand on caricatures of the enemy. “You have trodden the impure Gentile under your powerful feet” (Turner Wilcox,1948 p 4). Enemies of Egypt were depicted differently: Hebrews had beards and long hair. Libyans were black figures and Syrians had white cloaks (reported in The Chiropodist, 1927, The Leeds Convention, 1926), and Hittites are depicted unshod. All the more unusual since the Hittites came from the Anatolian highlands and wore shoes with turned up toes.

(king tut gold sandals Image via Pinterest)

In the outer chambers of the tomb of King Tut-Ankh-amen (1336 – 1327 BCE) there are two statues of the king wearing shoes with a golden ring. In the tomb of the boy Pharaoh there was is a shield decorated with figures wearing Assyrian sandals. The Mummy had pointed sandals of embossed gold with the toes curled gently upwards in the Hittite style. In Egypt golden thong sandals were used as funeral sandals (Bigelow, 1970 p32) and the belief was these provided comfort in after-death journeys. Egyptian mummies were sometimes laid to rest wearing burial sandals made from linen and decorated with jewellery (Putnam, 1996 ).

(Tutankhamun's sandals Image via Pinterest)

In Tut-Ankh-amen’s tomb was a magnificent box containing 93 pieces of sandals and slippers. Some were made from gold with beautiful coloured glass marquetry. One had a papyrus sole and leather ankles trap edged with a gold ribbon motif on wide straps. The motif represented the Nile scene of lotus flowers and ducks in delicate circles of gold (Turner Wilcox 1948 p4). The thongs were composed of plaques topped with enamelled gold lotus blossoms. The flexible sole was about ¼” thick. A pair of bark sandals was also found in the tomb with the representation of the Kings enemies etched on the inside of the sole.

(Ancient Egyptian golden throne Image via Pinterest)

Painted on the back of the king’s thrown were representation of himself and his Queen, Ankhesenamon . She was wearing simple sandals which followed her foot outline and attached to the foot with a single thong. The actual sandals are an exhibit in the British Museum.

(Tomb QV44 Ramses III and his son Image via Khaemwaset )

Ramesses III ( 1186–1155 BCE), was one of the greatest Egyptian kings and wore elaborately decorated sandals. During the 25th Dynasty (712-657 BCE) the Greeks helped re-establish order in Egypt and there was a renaissance in the arts with a return to the Old Kingdom style. The Persians invaded and ruled Egypt (525-404 BCE). Later Alexander the Great invaded in 332 BCE. The sum total of which was a rich cross fertilsation in clothing and custom.

Funeral sandals were found in a mummy case of Harsiotef , Kushite King of Meroe (about 404 - 369 BCE). These were lined with cloth upon which was painted a figure. Inscribed in hieroglyphics is “ Ye have trodden the impure peoples under your powerful foot.” This is now housed in the British Museum.

(Coffin of Egyptian mummy. Image via

After Cleopatra and Antony committed suicide in 30 B CE, Egypt was ruled by the Romans. By this time shoe styles had extended to sock like boots made in very fine leathers (Turner Wilcox 1948 p5). These were usually highly decorated and were fashion with a stall to accommodate the leather toe seperator (thong) in sandals (Turner Wilcox, 1948 p 5).

Anon 1927 The Leeds Convention The Chiropodist 14:91 264.
Bigelow MS 1970 Fashion in history apparel in the western world Minneapolis: Burgess Publishing Co.
Ledger FE 1985 Put your foot down: a treatise on the history of shoes Melksham: Uffington Press.
Lichtheim M, 1978 Ancient Egyptian Literature, Vol II JARCE 15 127-28.
Lister M 1987 Costume: An illustrated survey from ancient times to the 20th century Boston: Plays Inc.
Putnam J 1996 Collins Eyewitness Guides :Mummy NSW: Harper Collins Publisher p49.
Turner Wilcox R 1948 The mode in footwear:A historical survey New York: Choles Scribrier & Sons.

Interesting Sites
Ancient Egyptian Culture, Mummies, Statues, Burial Practices and Artefacts
Art of Counting Blog Analysis of Royal Sandals in Ancient Egypt.
Veldmeijer A 2017 Stepping Through Time: Footwear in Ancient Egypt BLKVLD

Reviewed 2/02/2020

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Shoes of Ancient Greece: Sandals

(King Namer 31 Image via Pinterest )

According to Cosgrove (2000), the arrangement of the sandal straps, worn in Ancient Greece (700-480 B.C.), varied but usually consisted of a broad band across the front of the foot, and a thong between the toes. The thong was sown to the sole about one to two inches from the end. This was pulled through between the first and second toes and sometimes between the second and third toes to meet with four other laces anchored to the sole. The complete intertwined system finished above the ankle. Sandals were worn by both sexes and fastened in varied ways.

(King Namer 31 Image via Pinterest )

Straps were both light and elegant, leaving the foot almost bare. Some were purple with piped edges attached to clasps elongated by short cords of plaited leather. Others were simpler, with a fan like spread of straps passing through the toes. The colour of sandals varied and were either worn in the natural colour of leather or dyed red, white, vermillion, scarlet, saffron, green, or black (Yue and Yue, 1997). Female footwear was usually adorned with embroidery, gilt and pearls but commoners wore wooden sandals (Yue and Yue, 1997). Simple sandals made of wood, felt or linen were worn by countrymen, priests and philosophers and these were called phaecasium.

(King Namer 31 Image via Pinterest )

Phaecasium style boots were usually worn during sacrificial ceremonies. These were neat fitting and made from white leather which laced part way down the front and often heavily embroidered.

Priests also wore phaikas which was a sandal ornamented with animal figures.

Slaves or maidens carried a sandalthique for their wealthy mistress which was a carpetbag containing various pairs of sandals (Rossi, 2000; and Yue and Yue 1997).

The Talaria was a mythical winged sandal worn by the Greek god Hermes (Mercury in Roman mythology). The significance of the wing has often been taken to symbolise flight however an alternative interpretation is these represent the Holy Heel and ancient mark of a divine person.

Cosgrove B (2000)Costume & Fashion: A complete history Hamlyn: London.
Lister M 1987 Costume: An illustrated survey from ancient times to the 20th century Boston: Plays Inc.
Rossi W 2000 The complete footwear dictionary (2nd edition) Kreiger Publishing Co: Florida.
Yue C and Yue D 1997 Shoes:Their history in words and pictures Houghton Mifflin Co: Boston.

Monday, June 22, 2020

Stepping Through Time: Footwear in Ancient Egypt

Veldmeijer A 2017 Stepping Through Time: Footwear in Ancient Egypt

Dr. André J. Veldmeijer, Visiting Research Scholar of the American University in Cairo, has worked as an archaeologist in Egypt since 1995. He specialized in, among other things, leatherwork and footwear. This book shows all panels of the sucessful exhibition 'Stepping Through Time' and more unique images of ancient Egyptian sandals and shoes

Sunday, June 14, 2020

Toe morphology and sandal design

Historically the difference in toe size is thought to be the reasons why ancient sandal styles differ (to fit individual foot types). Apparently, although I have not see it for myself, ancient Egyptian statues clearly depict people with different toe lengths thought to celebrate the main civilisations that traded with the Egyptians.

Sunday, May 31, 2020

Roman sandals at the Saalburg Roman fort

On the Taunus ridge northwest of Bad Homburg, Hesse, Germany lies the Saalburg Roman fort. It dates to 90AD and served as a linear border fortification along the Limes Germanicus to protect the boundary between the Roman Empire and the Germanic tribal territories. Original there was a simple dry built wood-and-earth fort built to house a numerus (about 160 men or 2 centuriae).

Later the numerus fort was replaced with a much larger (3.2 hectare) fort for a cohort, a unit of about 500 men. In the reign Hadrian, c. AD 135, The new castle with mortared stone walls and an earthen ramp was reoriented to face the growing Roman city of Nida (now Heddernheim). It remained active until around 260 AD., with up to 2,000 people lived in the fort and the attached village. The fort fell into disrepair after increasing Germanic attacks, campaigns in the East of the Empire and internal political problems forced Rome to abandon the Limes Germanicus. Sometime during the 19th century it was rediscovered, excavated, then later fully reconstructed. It’s now a UNESCO World Heritage site and houses

The Saalburg Museum contains many Roman relics, including shoes. Most are constructed like military caligae, with a one-piece upper nailed between layers of the sole.

Many on display have large open-work areas made by cutting or punching circles, triangles, squares, ovals, etc. in rows or grid-like patterns. Others were more enclosed, having only holes for the laces. There are dainty women’s and children’s shoes still with thick nailed soles. During excavations in a nearby well they found a 2,000 year old shoe.

(Video Courtesy: filmTValf Youtube Channel)

Reviewed 1/06/2020

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

A brief but fascinating history of the plastic thong

After the Second World War it was important to build up the economies Asia countries and help them become self sufficient. One of the first industries to boom was the footwear industry with mass-produced plastic sandals becoming a major export. By the fifties, new moulding techniques for rubber and plastic were introduced in Taiwan and elsewhere which allowed cheaper shoes to be turned out in their millions.

Traditionally wooden sandals were the footwear of choice for millions of ordinary people in Asia. Simple sandals (sandal from the root ‘sandis’ meaning board) consisting of foot platform with toe and sometimes heel attachments (thongs) were known to exist in Stone Age times and are thought to represent one of the first shoe designs. Different cultures used whatever raw materials were to hand to craft the simple foot cover.

Wooden sandals were worn in the Middle East and India (these are clearly depicted on sculptures, temples and in Sanskrit writing, circa 3000 BCE: rice straw sandals in China and Japan; rawhide sandals in Africa and papyrus (paper) sandals were worn in Egypt (circa1500 B.C.E.). In Persia sandals were crafted from wood and had a toe separator between the first and second toe with no thong. Platform soles were worn in bath houses and harems. Often the wooden sandals were intricately inlaid with pearl and other semi precious stones.

By Biblical times sandals were commonly worn throughout much of the known world. Wood was hard wearing, readily available and preferred by some religious sects e.g. Hindus, who would not wear leather. It remains unclear whether these sandals were indigenous to India or taken from Persia (or vice versa). Trade between the Western and Eastern civilization was well established in antiquity and it is expected fashion exchange took place along the Spice and Silk routes. So it is possible the thong sandal was taken to the Far East from the Mediterranean but also as likely the reverse is true. No one really knows.

Traditionally the Japanese wore two styles of traditional sandal i.e. the zori and the geta. Zori were flat bottomed sandals originally made with straw sole and leather thongs and held between the first and second toes. These are also known as Tatami Sandals. These were widely used in Japan from at least the Heian period (794-1185) although there is no history beyond this to indicate whether these were indigenous or imported to Japan. The Japanese geta is a wooden platform sandal held to the feet with a flexible thong (sometimes rope or a black velveteen fabric) that goes through the base of the sandal, up between the big toe and the second toe and then the two ends go over the arch back toward the middle or back of the foot. Getas are worn barefoot whereas Zori and Tatami sandals are worn with tabi, which is white cotton foot covering (like socks) with a split toe, between the big toe and the other four toes for the sandal thong.

In 1956, the Olympic Games were covered on television for the first time and the eyes of the world fell on Melbourne, Australia. When the Japanese swimming team came to the pool side they wore getas. The ceremonial procession became a camera spectacle which was broadcast all over the world. The fashion for plastic flip flop sandals soon followed thanks to a Hong Kong based shoe manufacturer, John Cowie who had previously had seen Getas, Tatami and Zori sandals on a visit to Japan. He took advantage of the new plastic industry and started to mass produce plastic thongs. New Zealander, Maurice Yock then took them to New Zealand and patented rubber thongs calling them Jandals (a combination of Japan and Sandal) in 1957. Plastic sandals were mass produced cheaply in Japan and became a stable post war manufacturing industry especially when they started selling all over the world. New Zealand sales rocketed and soon Australians wanted to wear the casual sandals they had seen on the Melbourne Olympics.

Other parts of the Far East wore variations on the thong type of sandal and these are considered unique to these regions. In Singapore the thong attachment is a strap across the top of the foot which follows the metatarsal heads. This is known as the Singapore Slide and the design later became incorporated into the Scholl Exercise Sandal. In the Philippines the wooden platform was decorated with intricate and ornate carvings. The US troops posted to the Pacific eagerly took home the carved platform sandals as souvenirs and many believe this was why sandals became popular in the US after the war.

By the mid to late 50s in UK and Western Europe the new plastic flip flops from the east were a must for all package holiday tourists visiting the sun kissed beaches of the Mediterranean. In the 60s cheap shoes found popularity among many low social economical demographics including populations previously used to wearing straw espadrilles. In South America the plastic pluggers were called Havaianas (pronounced ha-vie-yon-ahs) or flip-flops. In recent years the humble flip flop has become staple fair for the elegant fashionista.

The normal construction of the plastic thong usually has the thong attachment riveted to the plastic base. This is called a 'single plugger' thong. Due to an apparent fault in the production line a double rivet was madfe and the thongs were chrisitained "double pluggers." To the best of my knowledge out of all thong wearers across the globe its only Australia the Double Plugger holds sartorial sway.


The carbon footprint

Reviewed 27/05/2020