Where and why humans made skates out of animal bones

December 24, 2007

Archaeological evidence shows that bone skates (skates made of animal bones) are the oldest human powered means of transport, dating back to 3000 BC. Why people started skating on ice and where is not as clear, since ancient remains were found in several locations spread across Central and North Europe.

In a recent paper, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Dr Formenti and Professor Minetti show substantial evidence supporting the hypothesis that the birth of ice skating took place in Southern Finland, where the number of lakes within 100 square kilometres is the highest in the world.

“In Central and Northern Europe, five thousand years ago people struggled to survive the severe winter conditions and it seems unlikely that ice skating developed as a hobby” says Dr Formenti. “As happened later for skis and bicycles, I am convinced that we first made ice skates in order to limit the energy required for our daily journeys”.

Formenti and Minetti did their experiments on an ice rink by the Alps, where they measured the energy consumption of people skating on bones. Through mathematical models and computer simulations of 240 ten-kilometre journeys, their research study shows that in winter the use of bone skates would have limited the energy requirements of Finnish people by 10%. On the other hand, the advantage given by the use of skates in other North European countries would be only about 1%.

Subsequent studies performed by Formenti and Minetti have shown how fast and how far people could skate in past epochs, from 3000BC to date.

Source: Wiley-Blackwell

Explore further: Measuring on ice: Researchers create 'smart' ice skating blade

Related Stories

Winter Olympics Science Notes: Skate Blades

February 26, 2010

The skates matter. The figure skaters competing in the women's long program tonight at the 2010 Vancouver Winter Olympics would never be able to complete the jumps and spins needed to win gold if they wore speed skates.

Canadian ice hockey feels the heat

March 4, 2012

The future of Canadian outdoor ice hockey – a sport synonymous with the country's culture – is being threatened by anthropogenic climate change, new research suggests.

Winter Ice on Lakes, Rivers, Ponds: A Thing of the Past?

January 11, 2008

If you're planning to ice skate on a local lake or river this winter, you may need to think twice, according to scientists John Magnuson, Olaf Jensen and Barbara Benson of the University of Wisconsin at Madison. Their research ...

Recommended for you

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.