Finding the Past: 2,300-Year-Old Scythian Shoe Reveals Burial Customs’ Secrets and Masterful Craftsmanship

Archaeologists have uncovered a stunning find in the Altai Mountains of Siberia—a nearly intact women’s boot believed to be 2,300 years old. The boot is made of soft red leather with a geometric design sewn with pyrite crystals and black beads on the sole. It is thought to have belonged to the Scythians, a nomadic people who traversed the Eurasian continent.

The location of the shoe, in a Scythian burial mound, explains the other important finds alongside it, including jewelry, food, and weapons. As with other ancient civilizations, the Scythians were known to bury their dead with their possessions, helping them to travel to the afterlife. Each body was placed inside a log coffin inside a wooden cabin-like structure deep in the ground.

The cold, dry climate of the Altai Mountains has preserved the shoe for over two millennia, allowing historians to study its intricate details. The beading on the sole of the shoe has been of particular interest to historians, who believe it was meant to be visible to others during social gatherings around a fire. Some theorists suggest the shoe was made exclusively for burial, which would explain its immaculate state.

18th-century watercolor illustration of a Scythian burial mound. Archive of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg

The discovery of this stunning shoe sheds light on the lives and customs of the ancient Scythians, a people who played a significant role in the history of the Eurasian continent. Today, the shoe is a part of the State Hermitage Museum’s collection of ancient artifacts in St. Petersburg, Russia, where it can be admired and studied by people from around the world.

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