Clay shoe find one of a kind

Robert DoughertyNorth West Telegraph
Local prospector Robert Dann with part of a 'mud shoe' worn by indigenious people in Hedland.
Camera IconLocal prospector Robert Dann with part of a 'mud shoe' worn by indigenious people in Hedland. Credit: North West Telegraph

It might not be a nugget of shiny gold but Hedland resident Robert Dann says ancient clay shoes he has found while prospecting are a dynamite discovery.

The Minji Burru man living in Hedland said he had found a small collection of hardened artefacts while fossicking for minerals in an undisclosed area near Marble Bar.

“They are pretty heavy because there is clay right around them, but mind you they (Pilbara Aboriginal people) were strong people,” he said about the solid boots, which feature indented toe holes.

“It was made around waterholes that had dried up, you know, and they had to dig through the mud to get to the water.”

Western Australian Museum head of anthropology and archaeology Dr Moya Smith said the shoes were an unknown item compared to other pieces in its collection.

“The WA Museum does not have anything like it, nor accounts of items like it, in the collection,” she said. “The Western Australian Museum has not been asked to examine this interesting find.”

Mr Dann had previously heard stories about similar shoes made to combat the heat of the Pilbara before more modern shoes became available.

“They are a resemblance of us and what we do, and today we still make shoes out of a certain bush and tree by wrapping twines around it to make a shoe for ourself,” he said.

“There was a time when there was no plant growth, the animals were rare due to the heat and drying up of the country so they walked around with these big muddy shoes on.

“There was nothing else to wear around because the heat of the ground was so severe in those days.”

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