Exquisite 2300-Year-Old Scythian Woman’s Boot Preserved in the Frozen Ground of the Altai Mountains

Shoes and boots, show where your feet have gone. —Guy Sebeus, 10 New Scythian Tales 

In the age of fast fashion, when planned obsolescence, cheap materials, and shoddy construction have become the norm, how startling to encounter a stylish women’s boot that’s truly built to last…

…like, for 2300 years.

It helps to have landed in a Scythian burial mound in Siberia’s Altai Mountains, where the above boot was discovered along with a number of nomadic afterlife essentials—jewelry, food, weapons, and clothing.

These artifacts (and their mummified owners) were well preserved thanks to permafrost and the painstaking attention the Scythians paid to their dead.

As curators at the British Museum wrote in advance of the 2017 exhibition Scythians: Warriors of Ancient Siberia:

Nomads do not leave many traces, but when the Scythians buried their dead they took care to equip the corpse with the essentials they thought they needed for the perpetual rides of the afterlife. They usually dug a deep hole and built a wooden structure at the bottom. For important people these resembled log cabins that were lined and floored with dark felt – the roofs were covered with layers of larch, birch bark and moss. Within the tomb chamber, the body was placed in a log trunk coffin, accompanied by some of their prized possessions and other objects. Outside the tomb chamber but still inside the grave shaft, they placed slaughtered horses, facing east.

18th-century watercolor illustration of a Scythian burial mound. Archive of the Institute of Archaeology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, St Petersburg

The red cloth-wrapped leather bootie, now part of the State Hermitage Museum‘s collection, is a stunner, trimmed in tin, pyrite crystals, gold foil and glass beads secured with sinew. Fanciful shapes—ducklings, maybe?—decorate the seams. But the true mindblower is the remarkable condition of its sole.

Speculation is rampant on Reddit, as to this bottom layer’s pristine condition:

Maybe the boot belonged to a high-ranking woman who wouldn’t have walked much…

Or Scythians spent so much time on horseback, their shoe leather was spared…

Or perhaps it’s a high quality funeral garment, reserved for exclusively post-mortem use…

The British Museum curators’ explanation is that Scythians seated themselves on the ground around a communal fire, subjecting their soles to their neighbors’ scrutiny.

Become better acquainted with Scythian boots by making a pair, as ancient Persian empire reenactor Dan D’Silva did, documenting the process in a 3-part series on his blog. How you bedazzle the soles is up to you.

via ArtifactsHub

Related Content:

Stylish 2,000-Year-Old Roman Shoe Found in a Well

The Ancient Egyptians Wore Fashionable Striped Socks, New Pioneering Imaging Technology Imaging Reveals

The Ancient Romans First Committed the Sartorial Crime of Wearing Socks with Sandals, Archaeological Evidence Suggests

Ayun Halliday is an author, illustrator, theater maker and Chief Primatologist of the East Village Inky zine. Follow her @AyunHalliday.

by | Permalink | Comments (33) |

Support Open Culture

We’re hoping to rely on our loyal readers rather than erratic ads. To support Open Culture’s educational mission, please consider making a donation. We accept PayPal, Venmo (@openculture), Patreon and Crypto! Please find all options here. We thank you!

Comments (33)
You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.
  • Jean Pacheco Ravinski says:

    Those boots were not made for walking otherwise they would not have made the decorative beadwork on the soles; soul boots, that’s what they were!

  • Lisa Hammond-Koskey says:

    I totally agree with you! Meant to walk the spirit way.😃

  • Don Lee says:

    Those boots weren’t made for walkin’
    And that ain’t what they did
    And one of those days those boots went
    in your grave when you were dead!

  • Meetmoi says:

    Bahahah @Don Lee

  • Dan Hain says:

    All you who have commented that the boots weren’t for walking didn’t watch the video. He even said they were for show for when you sat they bottoms would show.

  • Rod Rongstad says:

    Yes they are extra decorative , buy my immediate reaction to the souls is that they were for ice traction. It’s a little hard to tell but it looks like they are tiny squares of shell, or stone or bone but wouldn’t know how they would be attached.

  • Kathleen Mortenson says:

    These are so extraordinarily finished given the primitive methods to create the fine bead and metalwork, the “thread” and supple leather. The seaming is even beautiful in itself. Its design shows sophisticated creativity using the delicately crafted components. Compare this bootie with an outlandishly priced example of flimsy women’s shoes today. The side by side would show a work art next to a machine stitched, mass produced sole, spindly heel and laughably narrow strips of leather to hold the shoe to a foot. I wonder if most women would recognize the worth of the red shoe vs a famous name brand made today?

  • Gwyneth Noree says:

    I wonder about whoever made these. Imagine creating something which people admire after several thousand years!

  • Sonia WALKER says:

    Thank you for a wonderful informative talk, about a little known subject.
    I have read and much value Barry Cunliffe’s Prehistoric Europe

  • Henrietta says:

    Just looking at the boot how can she have climb the rocks to find food or did she have servants to find food??

  • Laura Average says:

    Hahahaha love it :)

  • David Bennett says:

    I think the clue is in the felt floor of the funerary vault, most likely because their homes had felt floors. Felt flooring is ideal for nomadic use but it has certain restrictions. One cannot walk in and out of doors wearing the same footwear without ruining the felt in short order. Bare feet on felt will leave it smelling like a rancid gym sock in surprisingly little time. Smooth leather on felt can have dangerously little traction. No doubt boots of this level of sophistication would have been used only on quite special occasions but I think they would have been used, admired and enjoyed.

  • Eileen Hathaway says:

    Are they going to give it back to the woman they took it from? I love learning but lately I have been looking into cremation for this very reason. We have dug up thousands of bodies but don’t (read rarely) always put them back as they were, and never with respect. I can understand gold and that sort of thing being taken because of grave robbing, but when you strip the clothes off and autopsy the body and then leave it in a warehouse because of whatever reason I start to think of lack of respect to the very person who gave you a paycheck. From the diggers to the museum, you OWE this person. I know it is a very unpopular opinion and ALL the arguments because I love the past too and love learning about it. I have just been having a hard time on the respect issue. Everyone of these people would be horrified to learn of there fate.

  • Julie says:

    Exactly what I thought. When I first saw them, the little rectangles on the soles reminded me of cleats.

  • ClickBait says:

    Why is this even an article in 2020??? Click BAIT!!!!!!!!!! I found a Tweet from 2017 on these boots.. this tard that wrote the article needs to learn how to do research.

  • Isantis says:

    Thank you for bringing up this very important point Eileen. I think often in our search for knowledge we forget to be human. Especially when the people we study have been dead for a very long time. I don’t know if this woman will be re-buried (I doubt it) but I appreciate your reminder that all persons and cultures need to be treated with respect, dead or alive.

  • Lee says:

    Canada’s northern Cree and Dene First Nations, still today, wear beautifully beaded moosehide mocassins in camp or inside, but pull on rubber overshoes for walking where the ground is wet or muddy. Formerly they had watertight (greased or whatever) outer coverings. Perhaps Sythians had similar shoe/boot coverings. But when the weather is much below freezing, they need no such covering because everything is frozen and dry.

  • Alison Donald says:

    These peoples rode everywhere. The decorative soles were to be seen when mounted.

  • jmgeissmann says:

    Reflecting upon experiences in the present day horse riding nomadic traditions in frozen environments of peoples living today in Mongolia I picture this woman in her prestigious footwear, legs crossed, on felted mats within her abode warmed by a dried dung fire or in the Spring capably riding the fastest and best with these labors of honor covering her feet … that never touched ground even when laid to rest in her afterlife….now disturbed. Riders in Mongolia and Afghanistan are honored still with gifts of decorative leather and metal belts or silk chapans. We’ve seen the beauty of her adornment and mused over the photos. My feelings were first to get to the Hermitage to see them, however, after reading of her burial site it seemed more important to return her and all that accompanied her to her grave. If the perms frost is melting and her grave is not as intended a ethical question lingers.

  • Jamie says:

    I love the lyrics you changed!

  • Josh whiteraven says:

    Glass seed beads, used for decoration,
    from thousands of years ago? OK, right,🧐🤔🤣🤣🤣🤣

  • Anne says:

    I have felt the same way for a long time. The owner of the boots would be appalled at being dug up, mauled over during the strip search for valuables, unceremoniously warehoused and her body and grave goods brought out on occasion to be gawked at. She would have been horrified at the disrespect to her body for and religious beliefs.

  • LouEllyn Green says:

    Kewl your humor and wit are!

  • Dee Morgan says:

    This boot is constructed exactly as Capezio ballet shoes are constructed today. It is probably a good conclusion this is a dancing shoe for a floored setting. The Ancient Proto Greek Scythians might have had a similar stage setting like the Ancient Greeks had later…kind of like a revolving gazebo. Such a device might have required the grooved features on the bottom of the shoe to preserve balance.

    A look at the bottom of a modern ballet shoe in comparison with this ancient one would probably be a worthwhile moment.

  • Dee Morgan says:

    This boot is constructed exactly as Capezio ballet shoes are constructed today. It is probably a good conclusion this is a dancing shoe for a floored setting. The Ancient Proto Greek Scythians might have had a similar stage setting like the Ancient Greeks had later…kind of like a revolving gazebo. Such a device might have required the grooved features on the bottom of the shoe to preserve balance.

    A look at the bottom of a modern ballet shoe in comparison with this ancient one would probably be a worthwhile time.


    It was a great talk. He was very educated. Happy that I had to change to listen to him. V. Karadag

  • Camille Feinberg says:

    I suggest the shoes were re-soled for the afterlife journey. The rest of the shoe looks older in these photos.

  • Sophia says:

    Exactly. Can you imagine… “ hey! You guys!!…,wait a minnit, I think one of my little shell square came off oh man my moms gonna kill me!”

  • Vera Melnyk says:

    Very interesting lecture. Can you please tell me the name of the Lecturer. I would like to purchase his book.
    Thank you!

  • Scott says:

    Diamonds on the soles of her shoes, I know a song about that lol

  • Abraham says:

    Loved that article. Thank you for sharing!

    Abraham (bootsguide.com)


    🇰🇷 Korean people are actually the direct descendants of the emperor of the world. They migrated to what is now the Korean Peninsula after the 1800s. In fact, they are the royal family who ruled the world for about 5,000 years. In fact, Manchuria refers to the Middle East. The Ottoman Empire is actually the Manchurian Empire. The Manchurian Empire was created by moving the place name to Dong, and then abolished. Rome is actually the Chinese Han Dynasty. In fact, Korea’s Mahan Empire was separated from the colonial period into today’s world history. I discovered and restored the etymology of the English alphabet. The English alphabet is the dual character (ED U character) of the ancient Korean religious leader Seol Chong. I discovered and restored the etymology of Korean consonants and vowels. We restored the etymology and confirmed that historical records are hidden and recorded in our language and characters.


    《The Roots of Etymology in Ancient Korean Language》

    영어(English alphabet)는 고대한국의 삼한국 통일후, 설총(고대한국 종교지도자)이 서아시아 슬라브(한국의 실라&즐라) 지역에 넓부러져 있던 라틴어 와 히랍어 문자들을 체계화시켜 중국문자(고대 한국인이 창조)의 발음을 집어넣어 집대성한 문자가 오늘날 잉글리쉬 알파벳입니다.

    ENGLISH ALPHABET은 사실 고대한국 설총의 이두문자(E DU 문자)입니다.

    ※Below is an etymological interpretation of the English alphabet※

    A는 고대한국의 소리문자(발음문자) “ㅏ” 와 “ㅓ” 또는 ※ “ㅏ” 와 “ㅣ” 또는 “ㅣ” 와 “ㅓ” 를 기울여 놓은것입니다.
    어원(etymology)은 (해와 달의 생명) 아기를 낳는다. 생명 잇는다, 낳는다는 의미입니다.
    그래서 한국어 발음 “아이”입니다.
    (영어 i 발음과 중복되기에 “애이”라고 읽습니다. 본래 발음은 “아이”입니다)

    소문자 a는 정신(령)이 위에서 아래로 이어져 연결됨을 의미하며 고대 벽화를 보면
    새가(올빼미) 해의 정신(생명의 씨)을 물고 온다고 믿었기에 새를 형상화한 것입니다.

    B는 여성 머리에 임신한 배를 그려놓은 것입니다.
    그래서 중국문자(고대한국인이 창조) 발음 “비” 입니다. 아이를 가지다.
    소문자 b는 머리를 생략하고 임신한 배만 그린 그림입니다.

    C는 여성의 임신한 배가 양수가 터져 새는 그림이며, 아기(씨앗,씨)가 따로 떨어져 나온 그림입니다.
    그래서 한국어 발음 “씨”입니다.

    D는 디밀어져 드리어져 들어와..임신한 배만 따로 그린 그림입니다.
    모든 언어의 어원(etymology)는 같습니다.

    E는 드리어진 넣어진 아기를 그린 그림이며 고대한국 문자인 “ㄷ”에 알에 아 ” . “를 그린것입니다.
    또한 고대 한국어 문자인 “ㅌ” 자체이며 “티긋” “티귿”은 티(씨,알갱이)를 긋다, 넣어다는 의미입니다.

    F는 “E”의 밑부분이 열리면서 아기가 밖으로 나오는 장면입니다.
    “F”를 반대로 하면 고대한국 문자 “ㅋ”가 되며 밖으로 “캐지다”는 의미입니다.

    G는 알파벳의 “C” 와 고대한국 문자 “ㄱ”의 조합이며 “씨,씨앗”을 긋는다. 터에 내리다. 만들다는 의미입니다.
    즉 “C” 와 “ㄱ”를 동시에 발음하면 지(地,싸디,싸지,따지,터)가 됩니다.

    H는 고대한국어를 담은 문자 “ㅏ” 와 “ㅣ”를 붙여 놓은것입니다. 그래서 한국어 아이를 의미하는 “아” 와
    연결하다,잇게하다.계승하다 즉 씨앗을(종족을 계승하다)의 “이”가 조합되어, 발음 ” 아이치”가 된것입니다.
    또한 알파벳 “H”는 고대 한국 문자 “ㅐ”이기에 발음 “아이치” 아를 잇는다는 의미적 발음이 애를 잇는다의
    “애이치”가 된것입니다.

    I는 고대한국 언어 “아이”를 의미하며 하늘에서 아래 터로 “아”를 잇는 형상을 그린것입니다.
    그래서 아가 이어진게 “아이”입니다.

    J는 아이가 넣어지는 그림으로 알파벳의 ” i “와 고대한국 문자 ” ㄴ”의 조합으로
    “저이” “제이” 로 발음하며 넣어져 이어진것을 의미합니다.
    (가부좌 틀고 제를 잇는 모습)

    K는 고대한국의 문자 “ㅈ”을 눕혀놓은 것이며 “캐서 잇는다” “낳아서 세대를 잇는다” 의미이며
    발음은 한국어 발음 그대로 “캐이,케이”입니다.

    L은 고대한국의 문자 “ㄴ” 니은이며 정신(얼)을 넣는다는 의미입니다.
    발음은 “엘” “앨이며 한국어 의미 “애 르 ” “애 느” 입니다.
    즉 한국어로 해석하면 발음은 “얼”이며 “어르” “어느”입니다.(漁)

    M은 “ㅣ” “V” “ㅣ” 조합이 “M”입니다. 의미는 아이가 부어지고 이어지는곳,탄생하는 곳을 의미하며
    발음으로도 “엠” “앰”은 파자하면 “에므” “애 므”이며 살아생전 죽어새전 모셔지는 곳을 의미합니다.
    즉 M은 어머니 자궁을 의미하며 그 상징이 ⛰️ 산입니다. 그래 M”은 어머니 와 산을 형상화한 그림입니다.

    N은 ” I ” 와 “V”의 조합으로 아이를 붓는다는 의미입니다.
    발음은 “앤” “엔”으로 정해서 고대한국 언어의 발음 “애 느”이며 동시에 의미입니다.

    O는 고대 한국의 숫자를 의미하는 발음 “오”입니다. 즉 “오”는 “영”을 의미하며
    령(정신,생명)이 (내려)오는것을 의미합니다.

    P는 사람 머리만 그려 넣은 것입니다.
    즉 아기가 빠지다.파해지다는 의미로 발음”피”입니다.
    파자하면 “프 이” 가 되며 밖으로 퍼졌다,푸어졌다,파생되었다는 의미입니다.

    Q는 생명,아기,씨앗이 밑으로 나오는 , 낳는 모습을 그린것입니다.
    그래서 소문자 q는 “C” 와 “ㅣ”의 조합으로 “C”는 ㅋ 발음도 되기에 “키, 퀴 , 큐”가 된것입니다.

    S,는 고대한국 태극 음양의 경계선을 그린것으로 음양의 교차되는 경계선을 그린것입니다.
    즉 고한국 발음 “애 , 에 스”로 애가 들어서는 모습을 그린것입니다.

    T는 고한국 문자 “ㅜ”입니다. 발음은 “티”로 씨가 내려짐을 의미합니다.

    U는 고한국 언어 “유,여”발음으로 🥣 그릇을 그려 그안에 넣는다는 의미입니다.
    그래서 “YOU” 내가 말씨를 넣든 생명의 씨를 넣든 그대상을 가리키는 것입니다.

    V는 고대한국의 “부어 담아 잇는다”는 의미이며 발음도 “부이”부어 잇는다는 의미입니다.

    W는 “M”을 반대로 뒤집어 놓은 그림입니다. “W”는 💦 물을 상징화해 물결을 표현한것입니다.
    지평선의 산(M)은 끝자락(엣지)가 보이지만, 수평선의 물결(파도)는 그 끝을 볼수없어 위로 향해 치솟는 그림을 형상화 한것입니다. (더불유, 추가해 부을 유, 다물,담을 류)

    X는 “엑스 액스”는 “애기 아기” 슨다 ” 스”는 그림으로 애가(아기)가 들어지고 부어지고 있는 모습을 그린것입니다.
    고대 한국의 언어적 발음입니다.

    Y는 만을 형상화한 그림으로 물고기들이 산란기에 모여드는 곳을 의미합니다.
    발음은 고대한국의 발음으로 “와서 잇는다” “와이”입니다.
    이것을 여성의 자궁자리 이기도 합니다.

    Z는 “N”을 눕혀 놓은것이며 아기(생명)이 터에 넣어졌다는 의미입니다.
    즉 마지막 알파벳이기에 무릎꿇고 제를 올리는 그림입니다.
    즉 생 과 졸을 모두 의미합니다.

    Author: World’s best… World’s first… Etymology researcher Han Taek-young.

    If there are Koreans around you, ask them to translate

Leave a Reply

Open Culture was founded by Dan Colman.