The decorative designs of the boot have been described as "exceptional". Photo: Office de la culture and Gentle Craft
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Extremely rare baby boot from Middle Ages found in Switzerland

The decorative designs of the boot have been described as "exceptional". Photo: Office de la culture and Gentle Craft
The decorative designs of the boot have been described as “exceptional”. Photo: Office de la culture and Gentle Craft

A remarkably well – preserved leather boot dating back to the Middle Ages was discovered by archeologists working in the Swiss town of Saint – Ursanne.

The picturesque town of Saint – Ursanne, located in northwestern Switzerland near the French border, has managed to retain its medieval character.

Construction work to improve the town’s sewage system began in 2016, resulting in a slew of archaeological discoveries.

In one of the more striking finds, researchers from the Jura Office of Culture uncovered a fragment of a baby bootie dating back to the late Fourteenth century, as reported in the Local. The tiny leather boot would have fit a child around Twelve months of age.

The fragment, along with over 100 other leather pieces, were found in a large, wet depression under the town’s cobblestone streets, according to a Jura Office of Culture statement.

Artist’s reconstruction of the infant bootie.
Artist’s reconstruction of the infant bootie.

Soggy deposits allow for the preservation of waterlogged organic materials such as leather and wood.

The Jura archaeologists sent the fragments to the husband-and-wife team of Serge and Marquita Volke at the Lausanne Shoe Museum for treatment and classification. It was among these scattered pieces of leather that the baby bootie was identified.

The fragment is 17 centimeters long and 13 centimeters (5.1 inches) wide. The boot’s top section is made of goat leather, while the sole is made of cow leather.

The upper section includes clasps made from leather buttons, “a popular form towards the end of the Fourteenth century, though rarely preserved,” according to the Jura Office of Culture.

In the archeological record, this type of footwear is exceptionally rare, with only five other examples known to exist — three found in London and two from the Netherlands.

Floral decorations can still be seen on the garment, along with a series of geometric patterns. The original color of the bootie could not be determined, as water-soaked leather reverts to a dark brown.

In addition to the leather pieces, the sewer work has resulted in the discovery of architectural elements, including a “particularly complex development” dating back to the Middle Ages.

The purpose of the structure is not yet known and investigations are ongoing. Of late, sewers have been of great benefit to archaeologists.

Late last year, for example, sewer work near the Thames River led researchers from the Museum of London Archaeology (MOLA) to discover a 500-year-old male skeleton wearing thigh-high leather boots.

And in February of this year, Danish workers stumbled upon an extraordinary medieval sword while digging out a sewer. Sometimes, all it takes is just a bit of digging at the right spot to find cool stuff.


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P. Natasha Covers Classical Archaeology news and has been with Histecho since 2017. She has a Master's degree in MA Archaeology from New York University's Science, Health and Environmental Reporting program. A California native, she also holds a Bachelor of science in molecular biology and a Master of Science in biology from the University of California, San Diego.