Thinking about magyar shoes

January 28, 2012
magyar shoe mounts

Magyar shoe metal mounts in situ from "Ancient Hungarians"

For quite a while, I’ve been fascinated with this image from Ancient Hungarians of conquest era magyar boot mounts lifted as they lay from the grave site.  There are multiple examples of ornamental boot mounts scattered throughout the book, but this is the only one that shows how they were originally found.

According to the book, the boot mounts were collected in 1961 during a rescue excavation from graves discovered during the laying of electricity cable.

Quoting from Ancient Hungarians, page 198:

Boot Mounts (grave 1) [Fig 3}These silver gilt boot mounts were lifted from the grave in situ.The middle of the toecap was studded with three diamond-shaped mounts decorated with heart motifs, all set with a precious stone. The border was ornamented with fifteen triangular leaf-shaped mounts on one and sixteen similar mounts on the other.JAM (Jósa András Múzeum, Nyíregyháza) Silver, with gilt background. Diamond-shaped mounts, 1.6 x 1.6 cm. Triangular mounts, 1.6 x 1.3 cm.d Literature: Csallany, Dezső 1970: Weiblicher Haarshmuck und Stiefelbeschläge aus der ungarischen Landnahmezeit im Karpatenbecken. Acta ArchHung 22, 261-299 Pl. XXVIII
I love that this shows exactly how the metal mounts adorned the top of the shoes.  There are so few aspects of Magyar clothing of the conquest that we can be sure of in that manner, so I find this to be really cool.  How unfortunate that we have no idea what the shoe underneath the mounts looks like or from materials it was made.

8th-9th century felt bootie from Mazar Tagh at the British Museum

As textiles finds are rare to non-existent in Magyar graves of the Conquest, I’ve turned to finds in other cultures as sources for shoe materials, cut and construction.
This felt shoe from Mazar Tagh in the Tarim Basin with its beautiful decorative quilting is one of a pair found by Sir Aurel Stein during his expeditions to Central Asia in the early 20th century.  This shoe is currently in the British Museum collection.  The other shoe is in the Victoria and Albert Museum collection.   According to the item notes, it was collected from a garbage heap during the 2nd expedition (1906-1908) and is dated from the late 8th century to mid-9th century.  I also read somewhere that it was found with a red material inside.  Lining?  Sock?  Who knows.
From the photo, I can determine that it has a center seam on the vamp.  More than likely there is a seam at the back, but from the photo, I can’t tell what it looks like.  I believe it has a seam around the bottom edge of the foot that is reinforced with leather strip.  The toe also has leather.  I speculate that is a later addition.  I would love to see photos of the back, sides, bottom and inside at some point.
red kid leather shoe

Red leather goat skin shoe with silk samite trim from "Die Graber der Moscevaja Balka"

This child’s red shoe was found at Moščevaya Balka, in the North Caucasus, which has been identified as a Alanic gravesite used between the 8th and 10th centuries. It has an outer layer of kid, lined with tabby linen and trimmed with strips of silk.

Peter Beatson has written a very nice article on the footwear of the finds of Moščevaya Balka.

I’d love to know how they achieved that bright red color on the kid leather.

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