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Leather Shoe Fragments

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Artifact Description

Ten fragments of worked leather from one or two shoes were excavated from the “Tortugas” shipwreck, including soles and heel sections. While the fragments – largely interior shoe remains – may be leather, badly degraded or delaminated waterlogged leather can give the appearance of wool felt, which is similar in structure. The use of felt in shoe soles was not uncommon in 17th-century and later footwear.

The “Tortugas” wreck presents a shoe styling with a continuous outsole toe to heel, covering a low ‘spring’ (wedge-shaped) heel built up of multiple leather lifts (layers). This shoe type relied on stitching. The large diamond-section stitching holes visible on most of the “Tortugas” shoe fragments reflect the use of a stout diamond-section awl (tool), more commonly associated with Continental European shoemaking schools than with English shoemakers, who preferred oval-section awls.

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