The Areni-1 cave in southern Armenia is the site of the oldest shoe, and also the oldest winery, in the world.
Why shoes and wine? I couldn’t tell you. My best guess is that preservation from so long ago is rare, so we’re lucky that anything from this period of history is preserved. Lucky in this case means that the cave is cool and dry, and also apparently covered in sheep dung which, uh, “sealed in the freshness.”
We have evidence of wine going back 10,000 years elsewhere, but this site is the oldest confirmed wine production facility. 6100 years ago, Areni-1 had a wine press, fermentation vats, pottery to store wine in, and cups to drink it from. There are also several tombs, which just goes to show that drinking in graveyards has been a tradition for as long as there have been teenagers.
At some point the roof caved in and the cave was abandoned – but not before the sheep got to it. Archaeologists began exploring the cave in 2007. Not only did they discover the winery, but they also discovered a leather shoe. Carbon-dated to 3500 BCE, it’s the oldest shoe. (And it’s 4000 years older than the oldest surviving socks.) Shoes were probably around for a long time before this, because this style of shoe has been observed across Eurasia. It’s just that none earlier have survived intact until today.
An important note about this shoe: it is a US/Canada size 7, UK size 6, and Europe size 37. And it came with shoelaces. And a thick layer of sheep dung. Sorry, I keep coming back to those sheep. Who let them in the winery in the first place?
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