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The Museum of Natural and Cultural History is famous for its remarkable collection of sandals recovered from dry cave sites in Oregon's Great Basin. Beginning with excavations by Luther Cressman in the 1930s, well-preserved sandals woven from sagebrush bark and other fibers were found above and below a volcanic ash deposited by the explosion of Mt. Mazama, which created Crater Lake 7600 years ago. After carbon dating was developed in the 1950s, Cressman had a Fort Rock-style sandal dated; when calibrated to true calendar years, the sandal was more than 10,000 years old. With support from the BLM, Tom Connolly—Director of Research at the UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History and State Museum of Anthropology—has had numerous sandals dated via AMS 14C, which requires just a tiny sample. The results show that Fort Rock-style sandals were made from ~10,200 to 9300 years ago (BP)—the oldest directly-dated shoes in the world!

Fort Rock sandals disappear from the Northern Great Basin about 9300 years ago, after which Multiple Warp and Spiral Weft sandals were made for millennia. The persistence of these ‘later’ types over thousands of years is remarkable, mirroring the longevity of other basketry types in the region, some of which were still being made historically by Klamath and Modoc tribal members. Text by Tom Connolly and web development by Keith Hamm. Images © UO Museum of Natural and Cultural History. Production of this gallery was generously supported by The Ford Family Foundation.

More information

Further Reading

Connolly, Thomas J. and Pat Barker.
2004    Basketry Chronology of the Early Holocene in the Northern Great Basin. In Early and Middle Holocene Archaeology in the Northern Great Basin, edited by Dennis L. Jenkins, Thomas J. Connolly, and C. Melvin Aikens, pp. 241-150. University of Oregon Anthropological Papers 62, Eugene.

2008    Great Basin Sandals. In The Great Basin: People and Place in Ancient Times, edited by C. Fowler and D. Fowler. School for Advanced Research Press.

Connolly, Thomas J. and William J. Cannon.
1999    Comments on “America’s Oldest Basketry.” Radiocarbon 41(3):309-313

Cressman, Luther S.
1981    The Sandal and the Cave. Oregon State University.

Fort Rock sandal fragment
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Fort Rock sandal
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Fort Rock sandal
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Fort Rock sandal sole
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Fort Rock sandal
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Fort Rock sandal
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Fort Rock sandal
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Spiral Weft sandal
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Spiral Weft sandal sole fragment
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Spiral Weft sandal sole fragment
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Spiral Weft sandal
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Spiral Weft sandal
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Spiral Weft sandal with heel pocket
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Multiple Warp sandal
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Multiple Warp sandal - open twined
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Multiple Warp sandal
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Multiple Warp sandal
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Multiple Warp sandal
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Multiple Warp sandal - closed diagonal twine
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Multiple Warp sandal - open diagonal twine
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Multiple Warp sandal
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