'People wore shoes 40,000 years ago'

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London, Jan 25 (UNI) Shoes worn 40,000 years ago! Bizarre, but a study suggests that people in that period knew about footwear.

Scientists made the discovery while examining toe bones from a 40,000-year-old skeleton in a Tianyuan cave near Beijing in China.

Researchers Erik Trinkaus and Hong Shang, from Washington University in Missouri, measured the shape and density of the bones. They then compared them with those from a modern urban Americans' feet and late-prehistoric Native Americans and Inuits.

They could make assumptions about their footwear because shoes alter the way a person walks. A rigid sole will mean the toes curl far less than when barefoot and less force is passed through the bones. This meant there were obvious differences in the three recent populations.

The scientists found that the Tianyuan toe bones were most similar to the Inuits', indicating that the person regularly wore shoes. Their study was first published in the Journal of Archaeological Science ''Modern shoe-wearing Americans have wimpy little toes.

Barefoot native Americans have strong, large toes.

Shoe-wearing Inuits lie somewhere in between, '' the Daily Telegraph reported Mr Trinkaus as saying.

UNI XC ARB HT2005

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