Archaeologist who discovered ‘world’s smallest’ Bronze Age toddler’s shoe to feature on BBC’s Digging for Britain

Steve with show host Professor Alice Roberts

Thanet archaeologist Steve Tomlinson will feature on BBC’s Digging For Britain series in the new year.

The Birchington dad-of-two was mudlarking with friend Emily Brown in September 2022 when he discovered a 3,000-year-old, late Bronze Age toddler’s shoe in north Kent. The shoe is the oldest found in the British Isles and the smallest Bronze Age shoe found in the world.

Steve and Emily had been out for around three hours scouring the shoreline when he came across what looked like a very old shoe like piece of leather washed up on the mud/shingle, it was around 15 centimetres in length.

The shoe was carbon dated to 888-781BC, just under 3,000 years old and in the Late Bronze Age period and later confirmed the oldest shoe found in the British Isles and the smallest Bronze Age shoe ever discovered in the world. The shoe was for a child aged up to three years old. Steve said determining age had to take into account the smaller stature of Bronze Age man compared to today.

Prehistoric textiles like this rarely survive and the only chance is by finding them in anaerobic conditions such as bogs and mud (away from the air), due to this and the massive national and world importance, the carbon dating unit in Scotland asked if Steve would like to do another carbon dating result to make sure the age was correct.

In mid-January 2023 the second result came back and was carbon dated with the same result.

The shoe is currently with an Archaeological Conservator and Steve says meetings with the British Museum about a future home for the shoe have been positive.

He talks about his amazing find with the Digging For Britain team and host Professor Alice Roberts  in an episode of the six show series on January 10, 8pm, on BBC2.

Steve said: “It’s been a lovely journey and is very, very exciting.

“Digging For Britain contacted me in the summer after seeing the news articles and asked me to come on and discuss it.

“I spent a couple of days filming with them and it was an absolutely fantastic experience. I had been on Digging for Britain about a site in Deal but this one is a bit different because it is more personal.

“Not only is it the oldest shoe found in the British Isles but it’s pretty much confirmed as the smallest Bronze Age shoe found in the whole world.”

Steve said the series will be ‘extremely special.’

The programme features Professor Alice Roberts examining the findings and research of British archaeologists spanning the length of Britain.

Digging For Britain’s 11th series will begin on January 2 at 8pm on BBC2 and the series will be available on BBC iPlayer from that date.

Archaeologist discovers 3000 year old Bronze Age toddler’s shoe – possibly oldest found in country and smallest in world


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