Kuidas uurida arheoloogilist nahkjalatsit? Kadrioru kogelt leitud nahkjalatsite näitel / How to study archaeological leather footwear? An example of finds from a Kadriorg Cog


  • Tuuli Jõesaar




In 2015 two shipwrecks were found during construction works for the Tivoli housing development at Kadriorg in Tallinn. These wrecks lay 50 metres from one another. The archaeologists were then faced by a puzzle from the past that different specialists set out to solve. For the purpose of a dendrochronological analysis, samples of wood were taken from both ships (which were given the names the Viljo and the Peeter). The pine trees used to build the Viljo had been cut down after 1487, which makes the wreck the oldest preserved evidence of shipbuilding in this area. Sixteen samples were taken from the Peeter and, apart from one pine tree sample, all of these were oak. Analysis showed that the ship had been built in 1296 AD terminus post quem; the wood had probably grown in eastern Poland, or somewhere further to the east.

There were approximately 300 footwear fragments among the finds, some of them complete, and requiring further study. The location of footwear fragments can be seen on Photo 1. Photo 2 shows how a footwear item cleared from surface during the excavations looks, and Photo 3 features a footwear item after washing. The first and most important task was to determine which items had sunk with the ship, and which may have been left at the site at a later date. The dating of the artefacts and ship’s timber pointed to the 13th–14th centuries as the focal point of time. This is, however, not sufficient: in order to gain more precise information, it is important to know the development of footwear-making techniques through history; and knowledge of materials is an asset. Out of the registered 82 finds (n.b. several details amongst them belonged to other items), I dated 25 findings as belonging to the end of the 13th and the beginning of the 14th century.

All the finds are preserved at the Estonian Maritime Museum; the cog Peeter and a selection of the findings are exhibited in the hall of Paks Margareeta tower in Tallinn.

In my Master’s Thesis, I analysed the techniques, cutting patterns and materials used to make the footwear. The methods and the knowledge needed are laid out in the present article where I describe the documentation of finds MM 15329:222 and MM15329:288.

Studying archaeological footwear begins at the moment it is cleared from the soil. The task of a calceologist is to identify which footwear fragments belong together, to record the find, to instruct the conservator, and to secure adequate preservation conditions for the find.

For the purposes of documentation, it helps to be aware of the nature of leather as a material, how it becomes archaeological leather, and which methods should be used for the research. Knowledge of the techniques and their development over time is important for obtaining as accurate information as possible about the date of their manufacture. For recording details, it is necessary to take photos and to make drawings of the fragments using original, or pre-existing, symbols. The drawings must include the stitches used to join details because it is just such information that plays a key role in dating the footwear. Should one wish to reconstruct the footwear, it is worthwhile to compose cutting patterns using, for example, silk paper. The conserved and documented finds should be preserved or exhibited, preferably with the help of 3D support, because this offers a good view of the construction. I hope the article inspires many a reader to look at our everyday footwear differently.

Keywords: footwear, archaeology, calceology, cogs, leather shoes


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