Fancy Footwear


January/February 2015


A team of archaeologists from the Naju National Research Institute of Cultural Heritage in South Korea’s South Jeolla Province has uncovered a remarkable pair of shoes in a tomb. The gilt-bronze shoes date to the fifth century A.D. and are the best preserved of only 17 similar pairs found in the country. They are also the most elaborately decorated, with images of lotus flowers and goblin-like creatures covering the surface, and a dragon leaping from each toe. Because they are oversized and not very sturdy, archaeologists believe the shoes weren’t for daily wear, but rather for a burial ritual, perhaps reflecting the hope that the dead’s spirit would rise to a better place. In addition to the shoes, the team also uncovered gold jewelry, jade, weapons, a harness, and pottery, suggesting that the tomb’s occupant was likely one of the rulers of Mahan, a confederacy of statelets that existed beginning in the first century B.C. at the southern end of the peninsula, alongside the more famous Three Kingdoms of Goguryeo, Silla, and Baekje. The shoes, which are Baekje-style, were likely a gift to the Mahan ruler.