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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 02:19 GMT 03:19 UK
Iron Age shoe unearthed at quarry
It is thought to be the UK's oldest shoe

A shoe thought to be at least 2,000 years old, and the oldest in the UK, has been dug up at an English quarry.

The Iron Age relic was found in a hollowed tree trunk at Whiteball Quarry, near Wellington, Somerset.

Archaeologists say the shoe is the equivalent of a size 10 and is so well preserved that stitch and lace holes are still visible in the leather.

It has been sent for conservation to Wiltshire and should be displayed at Royal Albert Memorial Museum, Exeter.

A team from Exeter Archaeology, led by Stephen Reed, unearthed the shoe when they were excavating at Town Farm, Burlescombe.

As far as we know, this is the oldest shoe ever found in the UK
Stephen Reed

"What we have now found is a Bronze Age 'industrial' site consisting of two mounds of burnt stone - dated to 1460 to 1290 BC - and two water-filled troughs," he said.

"Close by were two timber-built wells, preserved by waterlogging and probably dating from the early part of the Iron Age."

One of the wells was constructed over a spring using a hollowed tree trunk set into the ground. The tree trunk was removed from the site so that its contents could be examined under laboratory conditions.

'Oldest shoe'

The "truly remarkable" discovery of the shoe was made when this was being undertaken by the Wiltshire Conservation Centre.

Experts examine the iron age shoe
Experts aim to determine what animal hide was used for the shoe
"As far as we know, this is the oldest shoe ever found in the UK," Mr Reed said.

"The shoe measures approximately 30cm, equivalent to a modern size nine or 10, perhaps suggesting its owner was male.

"The reason for its presence in the well or spring is a mystery."

It is hoped examination of the shoe will shed light on the method of its construction and identify the animal from which the leather was derived.

Quarry owner Hanson is working with archaeologists from Exeter Archaeology, Devon County Council and English Heritage, as well as other specialists, to ensure that all the finds from the site are properly recorded and treated.

It is hoped, following conservation, that the timbers and shoe will form the central feature of the proposed expansion of the archaeology galleries at the Royal Albert Memorial Museum in Exeter.

Pictures of the ancient shoe

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