Universiteit Leiden

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PhD project

Ancient Egyptian Footwear: An Archeological Analysis

The wealth of shoes, sandals and other footwear from ancient Egypt is poorly understood due to lack of research. This is remarkable, because from the very beginning of Egypt’s long history footwear served practical as well as more spiritual purposes.

That footwear played an important role in the society is suggested by the sheer size of the archaeological corpus: footwear is found in a wide variety of contexts from the most lowly peasant to royalty, and from Predynastic times onwards. Footwear not only served as a protection of the feet: it had a considerable socio-economic and symbolic significance from the very early stages of history onwards. This significance as well as status is, however, unclear. Equally little understood is how footwear was used and conceived of in practical terms. Moreover, we know very little about the development in time and the distribution of footwear. The choice of material, shape, technological features as well as the distribution of types in time and space are powerful traits to understand the practical use as well as this symbolic content. 

In order to achieve answers to the above-mentioned questions, this research departs from merely the hands-on study of items in major museum collections worldwide, as well those that have been recently excavated to include: manufacturing technology, materials, shape, use, wear and repair. The acquired information will be combined with the information supplied by the context: detailed analysis of the context might help to understand socio-economic, symbolic significance and status. Although the thrust of the research is solidly based in the material remains of footwear, pictorial and textual evidence will be brought to bear on the subject when appropriate.

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