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Oldest Insole Discovered

A 5,200-year-old artifact provides insight into early man's walking habits.

We don’t know what kind of pack he might have carried, but we do know how a man 5,200 years ago cushioned his feet. Archaeologists in Zug, Switzerland discovered the imprint of a foot on a piece of moss whose other side is flat, indicating it was used within a shoe, the Associated Press reports. Discoverers say the moss is the oldest insole ever found. While he probably wasn’t hiking for pleasure, he may have had one thing in common with today’s backpacker: an appreciation for comfortable footwear.

State archaeologist Stefan Hochuli explained that the 10-inch insole is a men’s size 6. He said it is hard to imagine a thin piece of moss surviving this long intact, let alone being discovered. It was found near a lake in central Switzerland. The wet soils caused the disintegration of the leather shoe that a person of that period would have worn, archaeologists said.

Archaeologists already knew that the town was the site of a Neolithic settlement, and have confirmed the age of the moss by dating other items found nearby.

Once the insole is preserved, it will go on display at Zug’s museum of prehistory. What he used for the blisters caused by those leather shoes, however, is left to the imagination.

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