Oldest Leather Shoe A ‘Dream’ Find For Armenian Scientist

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–For a young Armenian archaeologist who stumbled on what scientists think is the world’s oldest leather shoe, it was a dream come true which she still finds hard to believe.

“It was my dream,” Diana Zardarian said Friday of her historic find on September 16, 2008 in a cave in Armenia’s southeastern Vayots Dzor region, which has made headlines around the world. The 27-year-old post-graduate student conducted excavations there in a team of fellow employees of Armenia’s Institute of Archaeology and Ethnography and visiting archaeologists from Ireland and the United States.

“I knew that organic artifacts are very rarely found during excavations, especially from the Copper Age layers that are 6,000 years old,” she told RFE/RL in an interview on Friday. “At first I couldn’t believe it’s that old.

“I stood still for a couple of minutes in the excavation site. Everyone asked, ‘Diana, what happened?’ I said, ‘People, my dream has come true, I’ve found a shoe.’ Nobody believed me.”

With Armenia lacking modern radiocarbon test facilities, four samples of the shoe’s cow-hide leather were sent to specialized laboratories in California and Oxford, England for examination. Scientists there took more than 18 months to confirm that the item dates back to around 3,500 BC, an era known as the Chalcolithic period, or Copper Age.

“We were cleaning up the clay floor dating back to 3600-3300 B.C., and all of sudden a large cluster of dry reeds came up,” recalled Zardarian. “I asked laborers to go out so I could take a closer look at them. As I removed more soil from the reeds, I got deeper and deeper into them and then exposed a very beautiful and special pit. It was plastered with very high-quality yellow clay.”

At the bottom of the pit Zardarian found a pair of sheep’s horns lying on a clay bowl turned upside down. “When I raised it a little I felt that there is something underneath,” she said. “Because the pit was deep, about 50 centimeters, and dark, I couldn’t see what lay on its floor. In fact, I was digging it with my right hand without seeing anything.

“When my hand reached the floor I felt some organic stuff, which I at first thought is a cow ear. I took it out and got absolutely transfixed. It was a shoe turned upside down.”

“Everyone was stunned by how well preserved that 6,000-year-old shoe was,” she added with a smile. “Even the shoe-laces were preserved.”

Armenian and foreign scientists attribute that to the stable, cool and dry conditions that have existed in the cave for several millennia. They say preservation was also helped by the fact that its floor was covered by a thick layer of sheep dung which acted as a solid seal over the objects.

It is not yet known whether the shoe, matching a modern-day European size 37 or U.S. size 7, belonged to a man or woman. Zardarian said her state-run research institute plans to commission DNA tests for that purpose. She confirmed that the artifact will eventually be put on permanent display at the National History Museum in Yerevan.

Previously the oldest leather shoe discovered in Europe or Asia was on the famous Otzi, the “Iceman” found frozen in the Alps a few years ago and now preserved in Italy. Otzi has been dated to 5,375 and 5,128 years ago, a few hundred years more recent than the Armenian shoe.


The oldest known footwear in the world are sandals thought to be around 2,500 years older than the Armenian leather shoe. They were found in a cave in Missouri in the United States.

The Vayots Dzor cave located near wine-growing Areni village was apparently the site of an ancient human settlement. Other finds there included large ceramic containers, many of which held wheat, barley, apricots and other edible plants. The scientists exploring it since 2007 have also reported evidence of an ancient winemaking operation, and caches of what may be the oldest known intentionally dried fruits.

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23 Comments

  1. Arman said:

    Ախ Ասպարեզ, Ասպարեզ,
    “For a young Armenian archaeologist who stumbled on what scientists think is the world’s oldest leather shoe, it was a dream come true which she still finds hard to believe.”

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=inWeX_SzZCU&feature=youtube_gdata

    Սա է Հայ՞: Սա է մեր ապագան՞: Մենք ազգ երբեվիցէ չենք դառնալու հենց նրա համար որ գլխից արդեն հոտած ենք:

  2. Raffi said:

    Arman,

    Whats wrong with her, she is beautiful, I wish all Armenian girls were pretty like her so you guys complain less about everything and make love. Maybe she’s not even Armenian but married to one. Just enjoy the news they found oldest shoes in Armenia and who cares who found it.

  3. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics said:

    This is a hoax, yes you may assume that the leather is 5500 year old, but it was not a shoe when they dug it in Siberia, and then made it a shoe and re”discovered” it in Vayotz dzor. In fact, these group of archaeologists are businessman, not scientists. They had another such provocative finding about sculls of young women, and interpreted them as victims of cannibalism.

  4. hovo said:

    Haro you are hoplessly wrong. I told you, guys, long time ago that the shoe was made by Avatar, I was joking. This shoe is real. Everything started from us after the Biblical flood. You don’t believe Noah?

  5. Gagik said:

    Arman, you are an idiot.

    Have you read the comments on the video that you posted. The woman herself clarified that the interview was done in three languages for international audiences, and this is the one that was posted.

    Du hay ches, te che ays knojn aydpes cheir viravori.

    I know Russians with an ounce of Armenian blood that are more Armenian than you’ll ever be.

    Mr. PhD, and can you please tell me how this “hoax” would benefit anybody, other than bringing attention to Armenia?

  6. Random Armenian said:

    Arman,
    I watched the video, someone correct me if I’m wrong but she seems to be talking Russian in an accent. Dunno what that means really.

    Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics,
    Sometimes academics don’t know what to not discuss in subjects outside of their area.

    My biggest question about all this is, was the maker and wearer of this she a direct ancestor of Armenians? Who where these people? Did they die off, move on to some other region or stayed and passed some of their genes on to us? Were they a common ancestor to the multiple people living in the caucuses? The latter is more likely I would think.

  7. Nairian said:

    Random,

    I was thinking the same thing. Whether the shoe bearer was of Armenian origin? Most probably it should be, but I wished to make sure somehow.

  8. Random Armenian said:

    Nairian,

    We’re sensitive and proud of our history. Specially because so much of it is being covered up by Turkey and have had to defend it for decades. At the same time we Armenians make assumptions about our own history as do everyone other culture on earth. It’s not clear who the owner of this shoe was. A little scientific reserve and evaluation of evidence is is a good habit to have. I think you understand.

    Haro said “This is a hoax, yes you may assume that the leather is 5500 year old, but it was not a shoe when they dug it in Siberia, and then made it a shoe and re”discovered” it in Vayotz dzor.”
    Do you have evidence for this? There was radiocarbon dating done by third parties.

  9. Christo said:

    Is this woman for real? She’s dressed like a wanna be model then a grad student!!!!

  10. hovo said:

    I remember from a lecture that Armenia was established in 2492 B.C. (before the kingdom of Urartu), but the shoe is older than that, so more archaeological excavation, and some scientific studies of our ancient culture through the examination of our material remains such as caves, graves, tools, and other artifacts must be done in order to come to a conclusion. There is also a legend: Hayk killed Bell from Babylon and called the country “Hayastan”. There is also a story in Bible regarding Noah’s ark in our Ararat mountain. (What about the girl), this girl is pretty, but again, I am younger…

  11. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics said:

    OK, some of the commenters jumped on my remark without making a search on my background and credibility. I did study archeology for more than 6 years on the fields and almost 25 years in the books.
    Why I suspected that this is a hoax. Because, first of all it is organic material evidence. The majority of hoaxes are in this particular area. The other major reason was the group that made the findings. They have proven there revisionism in some other findings in the same cave (as I stated in my previous comment). Because of these group’s revisionist approach, it is not easy for some of us scientists to believe them.
    However, later closer lookup of the videos by Diana, especially when closeup views of the lace holes were shown. It may be genuine. I need to investigate this artifact myself to be convinced. However, for now, I take back my comment. No details of carbon dating is given yet, and so, I do not suspect the dating of the hide. As I said, organic material artifacts as hoax have the carbon dating taken care of. The other such hoaxes would be ancient parchments with recent writings (even with ancient ink).
    Having said all these, of course Armenia is the cradle of civilization, and you can find even more ancient surprises in Armenian Plateau when digging almost at any spot.

  12. hovo said:

    HARO, you are still hoplessly wrong. Is it the best equation you can come up with?

  13. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics said:

    Yes Hovo, compared to your formulation of Avatar, this is the most accurate approach. Besides it was not long ago in 1880’s that English archeologists deliberately destroyed the Musasir tablets that they discovered near Van. Such information that were lost would have been more crucial to our Armenian history than finding sculls in Areni cave and concluding from 2 million possibilities that the native Armenians in the region practiced cannibalism. Please do some research before writing such comments. Did you know that English archeologists destroyed most of the remaining Greek Parthenon among numerous other sites. Besides, why the media is not buzzing much about the discoveries in Artashat region. Is it because this later region is not sponsored by the West or UCLA? And how about the Tigranagert in Artsakh, did you hear anything about it in Western media?
    Besides, the difference between scientific and speculative thought is the ability to suspect. So, I am doing my job, my dear friend.

  14. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics said:

    Again, the problem of my mistrust is how this group of excavators (I reserve the use of this word instead of archeologists) have concluded from 2 million possibilities that the skulls of the women that they have found in this same cave were a result of cannibalism. This is where the famous line of great archeologists ring the temple bell: “Skulls and stones don’t reveal thoughts, only structure”. Have you read about how the English even to this day deny that Stone Henge was an observatory. I mean after so much precise and mathematical prove that the monument can only be an observatory of some sort, people don’t want to accept it. On the other hand, among 2 million possibilities, these so call “archeologist” team concluded that – “Nob!, Armenians practiced cannibalism. They kill young beautiful women and cook them for food”.
    Do you want to believe anything coming from this group of excavators? I for one, certainly will not.

  15. Avetis said:

    Random readers here should realize that Haro and Arman represent mentally retarded Armenians. Our self-destructive peasants strike again!!!

    Haro Mherian “PhD” – thanks for posting your full name. Now I know what doctor I will never see even if my life dependent on it! LOL

  16. Avetis said:

    What a relief! I just realized Haro is in mathematics and not medicine…

  17. Arman said:

    Ավետիս,

    Այ ստրուկ, հերիք չի քամի անես այստեղ: Այստեղ հասկացող մասան վաղուց հասկացել է թէ դու ով էս և ինչ նպատակներ ունես այստեղ: Այ անարժան ստրուկ, զուգարան բերանդ բացելուց առաջ աշխատիր այդ մարդկանց չափ գործ արած լինես ազգիտ համար այ օլիգարխի բարեկամ: Հա դու ազգ ել չունես մոռացել էի: Ինչ որա է օլիգարխ քեռուդ ասա որ շատ չի մնացել իրանց բառդակին:

  18. Hayk said:

    Haro – it’s good to be skeptical and question things, but where are you getting the “cannibalism” part from? Also what are the Musasir tablets, and why would the English destroy them? I am not comprehending this topic.

    On another note, does anyone know a good website about Armenian archeology finds?

  19. Haro Mherian, PhD Mathematics said:

    Yes Hayk, I agree with you, but I don’t have time to rewrite the whole history again and again. Musasir tablets were destroyed by the first English and German archeologists that came to Van. They came to Van because, there, in Babylon the cuneiform inscriptions of the gate Babel, depicted about a country up north that the Assyrians called it Nayiri. These archeologist wanted to find Assyrian artifacts, but the more they dug the more they were convinced that this land contains the history of entirely different civilizations, that they misread it as “URARTU” (the correct reading should have been “ARARAT” or “ARARTA”). And since they were convinced that these ancient civilization were the ancestors of Armenians, the shovanism took over them and they destroyed some of the more revealing artifacts. It is only by luck that they did not destroy their own notes, in which we find the drawing of Artini temple of Musasir. This temple is the origin of the Greek temple structure, and it is believed that this was the reason they destroyed these source templates.
    For my reference of the Greek Parthenon, please check the Wikipedia or Greek sources. They destroyed most of the high-reliefs of the Parthenon temple, of course even worse damage was the Turkish exploding the roof by dynamite.
    For further references, please take a summer class in archeology or art history.
    Concerning about the Areni women skulls, it’s even in Asbarez. You may also check the Google. Again, I am sorry, but I don’t have time for details. In fact, I have decided to never comment in Asbarez again. It’s waste of time. This is my last…

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