Walking in Another’s Shoes: Experimental Archaeology and Ancient Sandal Technology

Program Contact

Erin Baxter


The world’s most extensive collection of Southwestern prehistoric sandals is in CU Boulder’s Museum of Natural History. Sandals are more than mere footwear: they are an incredibly rich source of data that can unlock the mysteries of prehistoric migration and reveal levels of social status. Their treads can express social identity, their weaving style illustrates the skill-set of the people and the origin of the artists who created them. They are woefully understudied and many questions remain.

CU Boulder Classics and Anthropology faculty, graduate and undergraduate students with the two Handweaver’s associations (Boulder and Denver), and local running clubs and the Denver Museum of Nature & Science Anthropology Curators and staff will conduct experimental archaeology on ancient sandal technology. Together, this group — along with guidance and interactive lectures of outside experts — will study the methods, materials, and types of sandals made 1800 years ago, weave 50 pairs of authentic prehistoric pueblo sandals and then terrain-test them for functionality and durability on trails around Boulder and Denver. This project will engage CU Boulder students and Boulder and Denver community members with indigenous arts and history, applied archaeological data to scientific experimentation, and will contribute to broader anthropological questions in Pueblo prehistory.

Spring 2021: Research & Production

CU Boulder students, the anthropology section at the Denver Museum of Nature & Science and interested public members will develop social media outlets and websites in order to facilitate the project, collect materials to make sandals, and prepare for summer experimentation. Outside scholars (four faculty and two indigenous artists) will be filmed and edited to make instructional videos about the history, archaeology, cultural significance and construction of sandals. Students, curators and faculty will pull together a suggested reading list and lift useful passages into online (cited) material for use by remote learners.

Summer/Fall 2021: Testing

Experimental archaeology will begin in earnest. After honing their skills, students interested members will produce a second set of sandals with authentic prehistoric fibers (yucca cordage, hemp, etc) and tools (found in anthropology teaching collections). Additional webinars will include experts in ethnoarchaeology and ancient plant use, and discussions with a modern Pueblo Weaver, Louis Garcia. The social media content for “Online Ancient Sandal College” will go live with instructional media, help groups, and resources for participants. These will be monitored and answered by students. Platforms will include a website, Instagram, Facebook and Tik Tok.

Late Summer 2021

Students and runners  and interested members of the public will distribute completed sandals and begin to terrain test the sandals in a series of controlled hikes (with data recorded on the free App “Pacer”) across a variety of terrains in order to test durability of sandals. We estimate extensive wear after 10 hours. The final data will be crunched, videoed, photos will be collected and a presentation of the results will be delivered in an Open Forum. The data will also be tracked through the social media accounts and success/failures will be recorded. Students will compile and write up the results for final publication.

  • Background Work

    Additional Info

    Recruited scholars, film, edit, create ready-made online instructional video for Online Ancient Sandal College


    in colorado




    Public or Private

    Private Program (by request only or for a specific audience or group)

    Program Fee

    No charge to attend/participate in activity or program

  • Online Ancient Sandal College goes Live

    Additional Info

    Online Ancient Sandal College is prepped and goes live. Research/Outreach/Publication commences.


    online resource


    5/31/2021 - 8/31/2021

    Public or Private

    Public Program (open to the public)

    Program Fee

    Not Applicable

Sponsoring Units

  • College of Arts & Sciences

  • Department of Anthropology
  • Department of Art and Art History
  • Department of Classics
  • Research Institutes

  • University of Colorado Museum of Natural History

Program Partners

  • Handweaver's Guild of Boulder
  • Barefoot Runners Club of Boulder
  • CU Boulder Classics Club
  • CU Boulder Anthropology Club
  • Denver Museum of Nature & Science

Audiences Served

  • Adult Learners
  • Alumni/Parents/Friends
  • Children & Youth (outside school)
  • Families
  • General Public
  • Native American/American Indian
  • Non-Profit Organization
  • Rural Communities
  • Senior Citizens
  • Service Club(s)
  • Students - Homeschooled
  • Students - High School
  • Students - Middle School
  • Teachers - Middle School
  • Teachers - High School