While most of our fast-fashion items barely manage to last a few months, one Scythian woman’s boot has managed to survive 2300 years in freezing Siberia!
The Altai Mountains in Siberia had a Scythian burial mound where the Scythian woman’s boot was found. The extreme cold weather and being buried underground had helped preserve the condition of the boot. The boot was found with other items like food remains, jewelry, weapons, clothing, etc. These were what the nomads thought essential for the journey in the afterlife. The artifacts and the mummified bodies were preserved so well because Scythians really took care to mummify their dead carefully. And the permafrost of Siberia obviously helped.
2300 years old Scythian woman’s boot preserved in the frozen ground of the Altai Mountains pic.twitter.com/hGbTQWcrew
— Museum Archive (@ArtifactsHub) June 18, 2020
The Scythian Woman’s Boot And Scythian History
In 2017, the British Museum held an exhibition named Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia. There they mentioned how the Scythian nomads usually did not leave traces. But when they buried their dead, the bodies were buried with items they deemed would be important in the “perpetual rides of the afterlife”. A deep hole would be dug in the ground and a wooden structure built inside the hole. If it was someone important from the tribe, the wooden structure would be similar to our log cabins, complete with dark felt lining and flooring. The roof had layers of birch bark, moss, and larch. Inside the chamber, a log trunk coffin was placed which carried the body and their prized possessions. Just outside the wooden chamber, butchered horses were places facing east.
Credit: Archive of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg
Coming back to our newfound Scythian woman’s boot, it is now kept at the State Hermitage Museum. The boot was trimmed in tin, gold foil, pyrite crystals, glass beads, and secured with sinew. Yet unidentified shapes also adorn the seams of the boot. What is most astonishing is how preserved the sole has been.
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Secrets of Preservation
Reddit users have been heavily discussing what could have been the reason for this remarkable sole. Some believe that the boot belonged to a very high-ranking lady who probably did not have to walk much. Others of the opinion that since the tribe spent a lot of time on horseback, the shoe leather barely saw any action. It could also be that the Scythian woman’s boot was made from an exclusive funeral garment that was reserved only for the dead.
The curator of the British Museum explained that Scythians used to sit on the ground around communal fires. This should have resulted in the soles of their boots being subjected to the scrutiny of their neighbors. You too can make a pair for yourself just like the Persian empire reenactor Dan D’Silva does.
Featured image: © The State Hermitage Museum. Photo by Vladimir Terebenin