London, Jan 23 : Wearing shoes is not something which came late to man, for according to scientists who examined the curled-up toes of an ancient skeleton, humans were wearing shoes at least 40,000 years ago.
Erik Trinkaus and Hong Shang of Washington University in Missouri, measured the shape and density of toe bones of a 40,000-year-old skeleton.
The skeleton was found in a Tianyuan cave near Beijing.
Then, the scientists compared the toes with those from 20th century urban Americans' feet, late-prehistoric Native Americans and late-prehistoric Inuits, reports the British Press Association.
The duo could make assumptions about footwear because shoes change the shape of the foot.
A rigid sole meant toes curled far less than when barefoot and less force was passed through the bones.
"Modern shoe-wearing Americans have wimpy little toes. Barefoot Native Americans have strong, large toes. Shoe-wearing Inuits lie somewhere in between," New Scientist quoted Trinkaus, as saying.
The scientists said the Tianyuan toe bones were most similar to the Inuits', indicating their owner regularly wore shoes.
Inuits is a general term for a group of culturally similar indigenous peoples inhabiting the Arctic regions of Alaska, Greenland, and Canada.
The study is published in the Journal of Archaeological Science.