Saturday, March 15, 2014

Vol. 4 No. 17 Shoe Technology Before Man Was Writing About It

Otzi's Shoes
Ok, maybe this gets a bit out of the realm of 1950's - 60's  track and field, but it never ceases to fascinate me when we talk about our high tech age and how athletic performances improved with the aid of technological advances and biochemical enhancements.  Let's call this posting an example of blogger's license.  When we look back in time we can often see that people made some pretty remarkable things without a high degree of cultural sophistication and knowledge of the scientific method.   I refer you to Otzi, the name given the man found frozen in glacial ice on the Austro-Italian border twenty years ago.  He's been featured in National Geographic and a number of documentaries.  He was obviously of another age,  and it has since been determined that he  lived about 5,000 years ago.   He was about 50 years old,  very old for the life expectancy of the times, and he was a tough S.O.B.  It was found that he had an arrow point embedded in a shoulder bone.  So he had been wounded, and probably died at this very high altitude, wearing home made clothing.   But again, he was a tough S.O.B., because blood traces of at least four other humans were found on his clothing.  He had not gone down without a fight.  He carried a copper bladed axe, which set the archeological world on its head, because it forced  scientists to move the bronze age back  over  1000 years earlier than they had previously thought it had begun. 
These facts are explained in Bill Bryson's new book,  At Home, A Short History of  Private Life  on pages 377-78Otizi's shoes however are felt to be the most remarkable thing about this discovery.  I'll let Bryson take over here.  
"The boots were the greatest surprise of all.  They looked like nothing so much as a pair of bird's nests sitting on soles of stiffened bear skin, and seemed hopelessly ill-designed and insubstantial.  Intrigued, a Czech foot and shoe expert named Vaclav Patek carefully fashioned a replica pair, using exactly the same design and materials, then tried them on a mountain walk.  They were , he reported in some astonishment, 'more comfortable and capable' than any modern boots he had ever worn.  They were above all, exceedingly effective against cold."    Picture these shoes in your mind , before looking below.  Here is a link to Otzi and his gear.

Now if we can only find the remains of Otzi's track team and find what they were putting on their feet.
 Needless to say, marketeers have jumped on this shoe advance, starting a company called OTZ and selling shoes in the $70-200 price range.

Welcome to the negative 31st century.  

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