Perfectly Preserved 2,100-Year-Old Child’s Shoe Discovered in an Austrian Salt Mine

Perfectly Preserved 2,000-Year-Old Child’s Shoe Discovered

The ancient shoe, ready for laces. (Photo: Deutsches Bergbau-Museum Bochum)

Hallstatt, Austria is the location of one of the oldest salt mines in Europe. There, humans have been mining the precious material for almost 7,000 years. Archeologists have been finding evidence of these ancient miners and their activities at similar mines in Austria. One recent find includes a child's leather shoe, almost perfectly preserved for an estimated 2,100 years.

The shoe was discovered in a salt mine south of Salzburg near the Austrian village of Dürrnberg. Made of leather, the item has triangle “eyelets” which would have been laced up with string. Some remaining flax or linen suggests the long-lost lace. While leather is an organic material and tends to vanish with time and rot, the salt in the mines has helped preserve this shoe. The other half of the pair, however, is likely lost to history. Even so, the presence of this tiny shoe—about a European children’s size 30 and an American children’s size 12—indicates that children may have worked alongside adults in the mine.

“Perhaps their job was to shovel up discarded rocks. Or perhaps they carried precious materials to the surface. Maybe they had a different job entirely,” Aspen Pflughoeft writes. “The only clue they left behind was a 2,100-year-old shoe.” The kids working in the mines could have performed a variety of tasks suited to short statures and small hands, much like many children sadly continue to do in mines around the world. But ancient miners would have used wooden shovels, and one's remains were found in the same mine as the shoe. Salt was a precious commodity, enabling flavor as well as preservation of food. Hence the irony of its perfect preservation of the child's shoe—salt, still precious after all this time.

This leather children's shoe has been preserved in an Austrian salt mine for 2,100 years.

h/t: [Smithsonian Magazine]

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Madeleine Muzdakis

Madeleine Muzdakis is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met and a historian of early modern Britain & the Atlantic world. She holds a BA in History and Mathematics from Brown University and an MA in European & Russian Studies from Yale University. Madeleine has worked in archives and museums for years with a particular focus on photography and arts education. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, film photography, and studying law while cuddling with her cat Georgia.
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