The Historical Text Archive: Electronic History Resources, online since 1990 Bringing you digitized history, primary and secondary sources




Sandals


Did you know the first sandal dates back more then fifteen thousand years ago? There is evidence from ancient rock paintings that people from the Paleolithic period used animal skins to cover their feet to protect against rocks, thorns and other sharp objects, which could cut their feet and potentially cause life threatening infections. The danger of infections was always high and if you can imagine the average caveman was very pleased to have a sturdy pair of sandals.

One of the problems with these first basic sandals was that the animal skin tended to harden and then rot when exposed to repeated exposure to water. This caused problems when out on long gathering and hunting expeditions. As civilization developed so did the sandal. Many people underestimate the importance of sandals to primitive man, but they were very important as the primary means of getting food was either hunting or gathering and both involved walking in terrain that consisted of rocks, briars and other sharp objects. A small cut on a person’s foot in early history could lead to death.

The sandal continued to evolve. The first two designs involved one sandal which had a thong attached to the bottom portion made of rawhide, palm leaves or wood. The thong fit between the toes and usually had a string or rope to tie around the ankle. The second design was more complicated, with loops and holes along the sole in which the foot would be placed. This design was actually the forefather of the modern sneaker.

The oldest known existing pair of sandals is stored in the British museum and is dated back to 1,500 BC. They are made of Papyrus and thought to have been created in Egypt. The styles have not changed much since olden times; in this case function does prevail over form.

The next time you buy a pair of sandals remember there were people thousands of years ago who counted on them as part of their survival.