W. Groenman-van Waateringe                    


(note; all figures can be enlarged by clicking on the figures)

1. Introduction

The reconstruction of the Iceman's shoes as suggested by Goedecker- 
Ciolek (1993, Abb. 44, 46, see also fig.34) needs to  be  revised. 
Shoes with separate sole and upper are recorded for the first time 
in the Roman period  (Groenman-van  Waateringe  1974a,  1980;  van 
Driel-Murray 1987). Until then shoes - either made from  vegetable 
material (grasses or bark, Feldtkeller &  Schlichtherle  1987)  or 
from fur or leather  (Hald  1972;  Groenman-van  Waateringe  1970, 
1988, 1991; Groenman-van Waateringe & Smith 1984) were always made 
in the form of a mocassin or sandal. In so far as  they  are  made 
from fur or leather, they are always one piece  shoes  (in  German 
Bundschuhe), i.e. sole and upper in one. The preservation  of  the 
Iceman's shoes, both from the left and right foot,  was  extremely 
incomplete. For someone not familiar  with  prehistoric  footwear, 
making a reconstruction from such limited remains is  a  hazardous 
undertaking. The presence of  an  `inner  string  sock'  of  grass 
complicated things even more.

2. The remains of the Iceman's shoes

The  remains  from  the  left  shoe  were  described  as   follows 
(Goedecker-Ciolek 1993, 101):
What at first sight looked like a mass of  grass  and  remains  of 
leather straps  proved  after  freeze-drying  to  be  grass  stems 
twisted and plaited in the form of a human foot. This  `sock'  was 
rather well preserved at the sides  of  the  foot  and  round  the 
instep, but the heel was gone. Skin remains from the  shoe  itself 
were only preserved near the toe. 

The preservation of the right shoe was much better, although again 
the heel part was missing (Goedecker-Ciolek 1993,  101-106).  What 
was interpreted as the `sole' was oval in form and obviously  worn 
with  the  hairside  inwards.  Paired  slits  had  been  cut   out 
perpendicular to the edge. Through these a leather strap, 1.5-2 cm 
in width, was threaded. This leather strap also went  through  the 
loops at the bottom edge of the  grass  `sock',  thus  fixing  the 
`sock' to the outer edge of the shoe. Leather straps  tied  across 
the width at the underside probably gave a better grip on slippery 
rocks, ice or snow (but see also note 4). 

A piece of skin interpreted as the `upper' had been worn  hairside 
out. According to Goedecker-Ciolek (1993, 105),it was tied to  the 
paired slits of the shoe through slits at its edge,  with a 0.5 cm 
wide leather strip. However, this leather strip is  not visible on 
the various drawings, specifically the "Arbeitsskizze" of fig. 45, 
but also the reconstruction of fig. 46. The edge along the  instep 
of this `upper' also had slits through which a  grass  string  was 

The interpretation by Goedecker-Ciolek was  that  the  Iceman  had 
worn shoes made up of a separate sole and upper held together with 
a leather strap as a kind of sole seam. Also  tied  to  this  sole 
seam was the `inner string sock' made of grass. This `sock'  would 
have held in place the grass or hay, which served as insulation .

3. Other prehistoric shoe finds

Most of the prehistoric shoe finds hitherto known from Europe have 
been described by  Hald  (1972),  Groenman-van  Waateringe  (1970, 
1988, 1991;  Groenman-van  Waateringe  &  Smith  1984)  and  Barth 
(1992).  Recently  a  group  of  prehistoric  shoe  findshas  been 
published  from a cave in Missouri, USA, some of  which  are  even 
older than the Iceman's, (Kuttruff, Dehart & O'Brien  1998) .  The 
earliest American shoe finds, C-14 dated to the middle of the 8th- 
5th millennium BC, were made from  vegetable  material.  They  are 
described as sandals, consisting of a sole held  to  the  foot  by 
means of straps, or slip-ons (one piece shoes  with  raised  sides 
but without straps or fasteners (Kuttruff, Dehart &  Obrien  1998, 
72). Mocassin-like slip-ons made from leather were dated to around 
1000 years ago.
European shoe finds from the Neolithic are known from  Switzerland 
and Spain (Feldtkeller  &  Schlichtherle  1987).  The  finds  from 
Switzerland, dated between 3000 and 2800 BC are made from bark and 
are thought to be of the  same  type  as  the  leather  shoe  from 
Buinen : bound around the instep and the foot.  A  Neolithic  shoe 
from Spain, made from grass, is of the sandal type as were a  pair 
of shoes made from limestone found in a late  Neolithic  grave  in 
Portugal (Feldtkeller & Schlichtherle 1987, 82). 

In the course of time  the  basic  form  of  the  one  piece  shoe 
changes, becoming a little more complicated (fig. 1).  The  oldest 
form is an oval with slits around the margin. The shoe  was  bound 
around the instep by a leather string threaded through the  slits. 
Impressions in the leather point to an additional  binding  around 
the foot (cf. Hald 1972, figs 1, 3 and 5). This form is  seen  in 
shoes dating from the Neolithic and Early to Middle Bronze Age. The 
next basic form is a half-oval, rounded at the front,  with  slits 
at front and sides for binding the shoe  around  the  instep,  and 
straight at the back with smaller  holes  for  a  heel  seam.  The 
latest dates known so far for this type are 3rd century  BC.  More 
elaborately cut-out fronts are so far known from the  1st  century 
AD and later. One piece shoes continue to be in use and  are  well 
known from the  early  Medieval  period  (Groenman-van  Waateringe 
1970, 1974b, 1976, 1984 and forthcoming) They are still used today 
in certain parts of the world (cf.  Hald  1972  for  the  European 

4. Revised reconstruction

The reconstruction as given by Goedecker-Ciolek (1993, Abb. 46) is 
higly unlikely considering the type of prehistoric shoes known  so 
far and the knowledge that shoes with separate soles are not known 
earlier than the  Roman  period.  But  these  are  not  the  only 
The kind of sole seam proposed is not feasible,  since  it  was  a 
roughly made and open seam, not able to keep out moisture from wet 
grass or snow. Moreover the amount of wear on this seam would have 
been considerable.  The  measurements  given  by  Goedecker-Ciolek 
(1993, Abb. 44) are not understandable either.  The  reconstructed 
length points to a size 43 shoe, which seems rather long  for  the 
overall body length, while the width exceeds large size  shoes  by 
more than  4  cm.  Walking  on  such  oversized  soles  would  be 
extremely inconvenient and practically impossible in the  kind  of 
terrain in which the Iceman was operating. When the  rest  of  the 
Iceman`s equipment  was  highly  practical,  it  is  difficult  to 
understand why such a vital part of his clothing would  have  been 
executed in such a clumsy way:  both  oversized  and  inclined  to 
leak. However, the shoe length of the reconstruction in fig. 46 by 
Goedecker-Ciolek (1993) gives a size 37. As the foot length of the 
Iceman is 22,5 cm  the  correct  shoe  size  will  have  been  35, 
allowing for 0.75 cm extra toe length . The  foot  size  given  in 
fig. 42 (Goedecker-Ciolek 1993), where it  is  supposed  that  the 
`string sock' extends to the sole of the foot, is only 21.3 cm  or 
size 32. This is obviously far too small. This  error  is  readily 
explicable, however, because the sock did not have to  reach  down 
to the sole, only to the raised margins. 

The revised reconstruction of the Iceman's  shoes  presented  here 
(fig. 2) takes as the basic form the one piece shoe  bound  around 
the instep with a leather string  passing  through  slits  in  the 
raised margins of the shoe. This leather  string  also  holds  the 
`upper' in its place and passes through the  loops  of  the  grass 
`sock'. This means that the grass sock was not an `inner' sock but 
was bound to the raised margin of the shoe as a kind  of  soleless 
stocking (cf. Lucas 1956) or galosh. The  insulation  provided  by 
the grasses inside the plaited `sock' was necessary rather for the 
shin than for the foot, which was kept warm by the furry inside of 
the shoe. Upper and `sock' were easily removed when not needed. It 
required only to draw the leather string out of the  slits  around 
the shoe margin to loosen the `sock' and `upper'.

Parallels  for  the  reconstruction  as  a  one  piece  shoe  with 
additional `upper' and `soleless stocking' can be found in several 
cultures still wearing one piece shoes or shoes that have this  as 
a basic form, for e.g. the Amerindians (Gall 1980) and  the  Inuit 
(1996). Their footwear consists either of simple one  piece  shoes 
or of one piece shoes with vamp and leg section sewn to the raised 
margin (fig. 3). One could call this kind of  seam  a  vamp  seam. 
Sole seams are avoided for footwear to be worn outside, because of 
problems  with  wear  and  the  possibility  of  moisture  seeping 
through. They were, however, used by the  Inuit  for  slippers  or 
stockings to be worn inside boots.

5. Conclusion

Although the  shoes  of  the  Iceman  were  in  an  extremely  bad 
condition of  preservation,  comparisons  with  other  prehistoric 
footwear  and  footwear  from  cultures  still  using  simple  but 
efficient models, such as Amerindians and  Inuit  (cf.  also  Hald 
1972 for such footwear from Europe) forces us to propose  a  quite 
different reconstruction. The basic form of the Iceman's  footwear 
would have been a one piece shoe with the addition of  a  kind  of 
vamp and soleless stocking bound to its upper raised margins .


1. The description by Egg (1993, 70):"  Es  handelt  sich  um  ein 
   ovales Sohlleder, dessen Ränder hochgeschlagen  und  von  einem 
   kraftigen Lederriemen eingefabt waren.  An  diesem  Lederriemen 
   wurde ein Netz aus Grasschnüren das den Spann  und  die  Fersen 
   bedeckte befestigt" matches the  revised  reconstruction  given 
   here. Why then in a drawing in  the  same  publication  such  a 
   different and incorrect reconstruction is presented by  one  of 
   the co-authors is difficult to understand. Comparison  of  fig. 
   45 with 46 shows a discrepancy between the mutual  position  of 
   `upper' and `string sock'. According to fig. 45 the string sock 
   is positioned on top of the `upper', which is correct. In  fig. 
   46 (and in fig. 36), however, the `string sock' is  covered  by 
   the `upper'.
2. Prehistoric footwear from the  Near  and  Far  East, consisting 
   mostly of sandals made from a variety of material (Forbes 1966; 
   Brooke  1972;  van  Driel-Murray 2000),  will  not   be 
   discussed here. 
3. Recently Drs. J.  Lanting  (Department  of  Archaeology,  State 
   University of Groningen) had some of the  prehistoric  footwear 
   from The Netherlands 14C dated, a.o. the  shoe  find  from  the 
   Buinerveen.  (Letters  from  J.  Lanting  to  W.   Groenman-van 
   Waateringe d.d. 1.9.1995, 3 and 18.2.1997). The  dates  are  in 
   general later than those originally based on palynological data 
   from peat still adhering to the finds (Groenman-van  Waateringe 
   1970, 1991). The proposed typology, however, still  holds  true 
   (see fig. 1).
4. Twin furrows under the arch of feet in Norwegian rock  carvings 
   and lines around so-called boot vessels are thought to indicate 
   the binding of footwear around the arch of the foot (Hald 1972, 
   17-18, figs 7-8).
5. The  caliga,  pre-eminent  Roman  military  footwear,  consists 
   basically of a one piece shoe with the addition  of  an  outer- 
   and an innersole.
6. With the exception of Roman sandals dated to the 3rd century AD 
   with extremely broad toes and the so-called Kuhm„ule  or  duck- 
   bills of the first half of the 16th century.
7. I want to thank Dr. P. Hlavacek, technical University of  Zlin, 
   Czech Republic, for the measurement of the Iceman's foot length.
8. This would mean a size 37 for modern shoes with hard and  stiff 
9. I want to thank Prof. W.S. Hanson,  Department  of  Archaeology, 
   University of Glasgow, for improving my English.


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Captions to figures 1-3.

Fig. 1. 14C dated prehistoric footwear from raised  bogs  in  The 
        Netherlands. Top Middle Bronze Age, middle and bottom Iron 
        Age. Photo F. Gijbels, IPP.
Fig. 2. Revised reconstruction of the Iceman's  shoes  and socks.
        Drawing B. Donker, IPP. 1:3.
Fig. 3. Inuit shoe and boot with cutting patterns.
        Drawing B. Donker, IPP. After Oakes & Riewe figs 50 and 62.

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