Medieval Baby Bootie

Digs & Discoveries July/August 2019

(Photo Marquita Volken/© Office of Culture and Gentle Craft)

A leather fragment of a late fourteenth-century child’s shoe was recovered during rescue excavations beneath the cobbled streets of Saint-Ursanne, Switzerland. Preserved in waterlogged soil, the ankle boot likely belonged to a child of about one year old, and would have been fastened with leather button clasps. Although the shoe’s style was common for the period, says Marquita Volken of the Lausanne Shoe Museum, its decorative technique is very rare. The intricate geometric and foliage patterns were created by scraping away the leather grain to form a suedelike surface, rather than punching or stamping the designs, as was usual. “Such a pretty little shoe for a baby probably meant the same as it would today,” says Volken. “We want our children to look cute— even if the shoes aren’t needed for walking.” 

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