Oetzi, also called the Ice Man and even "Frozen Fritz" in some quarters, was discovered by a pair of German hikers ten years ago in the Oetz Valley, an Alpine pass which lies between Austria and Italy. His well-preserved corpse has produced a wealth of information about how our ancestors lived 5,000 years ago; what they looked like, what they ate, and...how they kept their feet warm. Petr Hlavacek is Associate Professor of Shoe Technology at Bata University in Zlin:
"These shoes are of an absolutely atypical construction. Because the soles were made from bearskin, and the upper part of the shoes were made of special tree netting. It is surprising, because the early history of man in Europe usually describes early shoes as very simple moccasins. And so probably the beginning of the wearing of shoes is not connected with skin, but with fibre products."
Petr Hlavacek says Oetzi's ingenious shoes - held together with tree-bark netting, insulated with hay and soled with bearskin - suggest our ancestors were far more technologically advanced than we originally thought. To prove it, his team made exact replicas of the shoes and tested them in the Alps. The results were astonishing: the shoes - which, remember, were made at the end of the Stone Age - were completely waterproof, insulated against extreme cold, and constructed in such a way that pressure was displaced evenly to prevent blisters. One of the team was an experienced mountain climber; he said after wearing the shoes for two days in the Alps that he could climb any mountain in Europe in them.
"Give us time! The results are very surprising."
But they wouldn't be put to commercial use - you won't have Nike or Adidas asking you for permission to make Oetzi trainers for sportsmen?
"Maybe. But I repeat, it's too soon for an answer to this question."
Associate Professor of Shoe Technology Petr Hlavacek, ending that report on Oetzi the Ice Man and his remarkable shoes.
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