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Origins of Iceskates

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THE ORIGINS OF ICE
SKATES
By Nam Catzel

Investigation into the Origins of Ice
Skates and their evolution ORIGINS OF ICE SKATES

INVESTIGATIONS INTO THE ORIGINS OF ICE SKATES

Executive Summary

There is much debate in the field of history; conjecture and interpretation of facts are often misinterpreted due to the lack of evidence. The origin of ice skates is subject to much of these misconceptions. Though there have been many interesting and intriguing finds in this area, the origins are still debated. The true origins of ice skates is unknown; however there are many theories to who invented it, five cultures if not more believe that they have a claim to the invention. This project will illustrate known ideas about the origins of ice skates, revealing common and uncommon theories, as well as display the evolution of the ice skate in terms of design and the technologies used at each specific era. The influences and uses surrounding several styles of ice skate is identified and explained. The physics behind ice skating is analyzed to provide a context to why skating was invented. To conclude, an analysis of future possibilities and prediction of the direction evolution of the ice skate will take.
“History is mere interpretation and conjecture.”

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Table of Contents
Executive Summary................................................................................................................................. 1
Introduction ............................................................................................................................................ 3
Origin Theories ........................................................................................................................................ 4
Evolution of design and technology........................................................................................................ 7
Uses and influences .............................................................................................................................. 11
Technical aspects .................................................................................................................................. 17
Future possibilities ................................................................................................................................ 20
Future evolution ................................................................................................................................... 20
Conclusion ............................................................................................................................................. 20
References ............................................................................................................................................ 21

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Introduction

Before we delve into the origins, we have to define what an ice skate is and its basic function.
According to Oxford dictionary an ice skate is “A boot with a blade attached to the sole, used for skating on ice” (Oxford Dictionaries, 2015). . This definition is would lead us to believe that skating on ice is a fairly new invention brought around by the Dutch in the year 1250 A.D.
However the origins of the ice skate go further back, some conjecture that it may go back to the
Stone Age. Therefore for the purpose of this research project the ice skate will be defined as “A method of locomotion on ice, which facilitates upright movement on ice, this method must consist of the use of external material attached to the sole of the foot or shoe.”

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Origin Theories

Until recently the most debated version to where ice skates originated from was the argument between the Dutch and the Vikings.
Vikings are most commonly associated with savagery; they were brutal raiders from 8th century who terrorised the coast of northern Europe right down to the west coasts of Spain. However it is seldom known that they have a claim to the invention of ice skates, ski’s and sledges. There are many ice skates which are similar in model to the ones used by the Scandinavians that have been discovered in the countries invaded by the Vikings. These countries include England,
France they may have even gone as far as the Valley of the Danube (Rero, 2002). The warriors would bring many aspects of their lifestyle to the areas that they invaded and even more prominent would be where they settled. (Lambert)There are many tales of how ice skates where used. Scandinavians believe that ice skating was derived from an established Nordic custom where one would bind boards of wood to the sole of the shoe so as not to sink in loose snow. From this invention skates were invented, animal leg bones where tied to the sole of the foot and a stick was used to push of the ice to propel oneself forward (Barbin, 2014). The figure below is a representation of where the Vikings settled and the eras. These would indicate where they could have spread their knowledge of ice skates.

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The development of ice skating in Holland is largely due to their countries geography and atmospheric conditions. The topography is very flat and there are many stream and rivers that flow through it. In winter these water corridors would freeze and become roads that could be travelled. The economic growth that Europe was experiencing was based on the transport of merchandise. These corridors allowed for continuous exchange. The cities in winter could be provided with supplies which the population every growing needed. The markets in Amsterdam were for centuries supplied via the rivers frozen or not (Rero, 2002). The word “Schenkel” in
Old Dutch means leg bone; this was also the word for skate, going back to the first model of skate, the bone skate. The Dutch take it for granted that the ice skate is a Dutch invention. They believe that they were the first to really invent the ice skate and that it spread throughout the known world. The Dutch William III who married Mary Stuart brought with him to England his entourage who taught the English skating. Then in turn the English spread this idea to the US and Canada. (Barbin, 2014)

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The oldest pair of bone skates claimed to be found in Switzerland dates back to 1000 B.C. They were found on the bottom of a lake. Another locality has said to have uncovered bone skates in the Keller’s lake-dwelling at Moosseedorf, near Bern in Switzerland, if the bone skates were to be authenticated as genuine. Then there will be compelling evidence to place the origins of bone skates back to the Stone Age (Munro, 1897).

The earliest pictorial evidence of ice skating appears on the Swedish map Carta Mariana. It is dated 1539 (Barbin, 2014). This puts a claim to Sweden and the Scandinavian theory. It depicts two men using what wooden skates, with a stick as a forward propulsion mechanism.

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The British and the Italian scientists have made a case for the Finnish to have been the originators of ice skating. The new study suggests that 5000 years ago the Finns invented skates, the south of Finland is the only area icy and flat that would allow for effective travelling on ice with bone skates. The northern European winters are bitter cold and surviving it is a tough, therefore skating was probably developed for practical locomotion purposes and not for leisure. According to Formenti,2007 an Italian scientist there are many ancient pairs of ice skates found all across northern Europe; these were made from leg bones of horses. However scientists are still unsure where the ice skaters would have first took to the icy rivers. However
Finland’s geography according to scientist would allow for a 10% energy saving compared to doing the journey on foot. This would allow individuals to cover more ground in the small amount of daylight available in the winter. Even to this day it is possible to walk from island to island over the Baltic sea, cross channels or bay with little amount of effort.

There are researches who believe that the bone skate originated from the steppe zone in the second millennium B.C. This vast area stretches from the great Hungarian plain to the northern
Pontic area. Specimens from the early Bronze Age, middle bronze age were discovered in settlements at Százhalombatta-Földvár (Luik et al., 2003).

Evolution of design and technology

There are several major changes that have happened in the past to get to where the ice skate is today. The oldest written reference to ice skating is found in Heathcote et al. and Munro (Luik et al.,
2003). There are many references to this activity through stories and tales however these are the oldest detailed references to bone skates. The first step in the development of ice skates was animal bones. According to Jacobi (Luik et al., 2003).the most common bones used were horse bones and the second was cow bones. This is from the 211 findings of which 66% and 34% were horse and cow bones respectively. The study also showed that different bones were used; it is assumed that it varied with the size of the wearer’s foot. Metatarsi, metacarpi and radii bones were used to differentiate in size. The bone skate usually had holes pierced horizontally through which leather straps could pass through to fasten the boot and the bone skate together.

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As the bones do not have an edge to push off the ice with the forward propulsion method used came from the upper body; a sharpened stick was pushed into the ice between the legs of the skater propelling him forward. Until the mid-1200 A.D there was no significant changes to the materials used to make ice skates. Variations made from wood were the most prominent changes. Surprisingly bone skates were still in use in the 1700’s in certain parts of Iceland and
Hungary according to Roes (Roes, 1963).

However in the year 1250 A.D the Dutch invented the two iron bladed ice skate. This wood and iron contraption would be tied to the underside of the shoe. This was the first time that a stick was not needed to propel oneself forward as the edges of the blade were sharp and could push against the ice. This revolutionised ice skating as the stronger lower half of the body was used for faster forward motion allowing the hands to be free for stability. However when (Formenti et al., 2007) measured the dynamic coefficient of friction of these new ice skates with the bone skates it was found that they have a higher coefficient then the bone skates. This would usually mean that they would glide worse, however due to the increased force exerted on the ice skate through the blade it was possible to compensate for the higher coefficient of friction.
Skates that were used in the 15th to 18th centuries were of the same material as their predecessors however they had a reduced weight of around 30%. Similar to their predecessors they had short blades; this was to save on the cost of the fabrication and material. Due to the short blade it was hard to balance. With all that being said the mass production of similar types of units was prominent in the Netherlands; this method of transportation became very popular

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amongst the people, especially in winter when the largest network of canals in the world would freeze over. Hundreds of paintings would be created by artists drawing the scenes they would observe on the canals, lakes and rivers.

The 18th century brought longer blades for ice skates that would allow for better balance and control. From a purely mechanical perspective the it was understood impirically that the edge of the blade was in contact with the ice the most during the pushing forward phase. Therefore at a given temperature and with a given force, the pressure created on the ice by the blade could be lowered if the contact area was larger. This in turn would reduce the friction between the blade and the ice when the user is gliding giving the user less resistance.

There was a lot of development in the mid to late 1800s. In 1848, Bushnell of Philadelphia invented the first all steel clamp for skates. In 1865, Jackson Haines, a famous American skater, developed the two plates all metal blade. The blade was attached directly to Haines' boots giving him better control. Haines added the first toe pick to skates in the 1870's, making toe pick jumps possible (Barbin, 2014).

In 1914, John E. Strauss, a blade maker from St. Paul, Minnesota, invented the first closed toe blade made from one piece of steel, making skates lighter and stronger. This addition of the steel blade compared to the iron blades kept the ice skates sharper for longer. The blades of the skates got thinner with the evolution of technology, this allowed for lower coefficients of friction
(Kobayashi, 1973).
From then on the specialisation of ice skates branched out. With there being several types of activities performed on ice skates different needs were attended to.

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Figure skates were the most popular skate; these skates have a high boot, picked toe, and a blade longer then the boot. The blade is also 4mm thick stainless steel; this is for impacts due to figure skating performances. The boot is made from composite materials to support the ankle and absorb the shocks.

The next speciality was speed skating, the skates developed for this sport or activity differs from the figure skate in several ways. The blade is longer and protrudes on both sides of the skate
(front and back) while the blade is only 1mm thick. The thickness of the blade allows for less friction as explained above. The boot is also ankle high; this is due to the fact that it does not need to support the ankle from high impact shocks as one would need to do in ice hockey or figure skating. It also makes the skate lighter. This ice skate uses all the principles to increase the velocity of the user on the ice.

The third development was one for ice hockey. Ice hockey used to be performed with what one could describe as figure skates with a few modifications however the overall look was the same.
The when the hockey skates were developed they were created specifically for easier turning,

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this was done by removing the toe picks and removing the protruding blades. They are made from composite material, Kevlar, nylon etc. It was also a safety measure to reduce the amount of injuries with ice skates.

The technology of machinery played a big role in the evolution of the ice skate. Where one metal was crudely formed advancements in technology (furnaces to melt the ore) and processing and treatment of the metal has provided the strength and durability to the blades. The processes for creating the complex composite materials in the late 20th century such as fibre glass, Kevlar and nylon have given the ice skate strength and light weight.

Uses and influences
The method of locomotion most commonly used would have been walking. While horse riding may have been available it was reserved for the highest orders. Ice skating was probably developed by necessity, being able to travel faster or shorter distances due to the ability t traverse ice would have been an important factor in the survival of the population. According to the paper by (Formenti,2007) ice skates would increase the efficiency of travel by 10 %. This would also be used for hunting in winter allowing the hunter to traverse before unpassable terrain. Nam Catzel

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Through time skating became a leisure activity as well as a method of transportation. There are many depictions of this, paintings and illustrations.
50 B.C evidence showed that in London the romans used to use bone skates as a leisure activity or even a method of transport. As the Roman Empire expanded through the known word it is can be evident that they might have come across the bone skate while conquering (Barbin,
2014).
The first clear description of ice skating is described in the works of the monk William
Fitzstephen 1100 A.D. In the scripture, which is centred around Sir Thomas Becket; he describes a scene he witnessed from the northern city walls: "...if the moors in Finsbury and Moorfield freeze over, children from London play. Some of the children have attached bones to their ankles, and carry well-worn sticks. They fly across the ice like birds, or well-fired arrows.
Suddenly, two children will run at each other, sticks held high in the air. They then attack each other until one falls down. Often, the children injure their heads or break their arms or legs..."
The first representative depiction of skating in an illustration was the 1489 Saint Lidwina, the patron saint of ice skaters. It depicts the Saint Lidwina at age 15, who while ice skating fell and injured herself. She suffered from broken ribs and never fully recovered from this, causing her to suffer and become disabled for the rest of her life. After the fall, she fasted continuously and became renowned ad a healer and holy person. She died in 1434, her grave became a sacred place where people would pilgrimage to, and later on a chapel was built over her grave (Rero,
2002).

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She was so venerated by the public that her relics and remains were brought to brussels in
1615, though later on returned in 1871. Pope leo XIII canonized her officially in march of 1890.
Now not only is she patron saint of ice skaters but the chronically ill as well. Through modern research it has come to a conclusion that her debilitating illness was probably due to Multiple
Sclerosis, which the fall aggravated. The most intriguing figure in this painting is the man in the background who is skating without a pole. This would tell us that the man was wearing the new
Dutch ice skates with metal blades.

In the year 1572 the battle of Ijsselmeer in Amsterdam took place. What was surprising is that this battle was fought on the ice. The Spaniards attempted to capture a Dutch ship stuck in the ice. According to the stories the Dutch surprised the Spanish by taking to the ice and being able to manoeuvre so well on the ice. The innovative double edged skate made manoeuvring on the ice so much easier it became a military advantage. The Duke of Alva was so impressed her ordered 7000 pairs of ice skates for his own troops. Ice skating military tactics were used for centuries after against invasion attempts by the French and Spanish. In the 1900s soldiers would receive a standard pair of ice skates to go with their equipment (Barbin, 2014; Rero,
2002)

The Edinburgh Skating Club is recognized as the first organized figure skating club with 1742 as the date of its founding. The next-oldest skating club, in London, was not founded until 1830.

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From description in their manual is apparent that the form of skating practiced by club members was indeed an early form of figure skating rather than speed skating. For admission to the club, candidates had to pass a skating test where they performed a complete circle on either foot and then jumped over first one hat, then two and three, placed over each other on the ice.

Europe wasn’t the only continent where ice sports where common practice. There is documentation from the Song dynasty (960 to 1279) where people would skate in the imperial gardens. Soldiers wearing ice skates were vital in a battle victory in 1600, this created the reign of the Qing dynasty. As with many empires when it fell, the sports and artefacts of that dynasty were destroyed or lost.

In 1830 due to its popularity the first fully mechanised skating rink was built in London called the Glaciarium. The rink was set on a concrete surface that had layers of cow hair, earth and timber planks. On these layers were oval copper pipes laid out in a continuous S formation.
These pipes contained glycerine, ether, nitrogen peroxide and water solution. The pipes were covered by water and the solution was pressurised through causing the water to freeze around them. This technique is still used in ice rinks till this day however the materials are different.
The ice rink was for the wealthy and spectator could view from gallery areas, an experience without having to leave the comforts of the city, to go to the Alps (Barbin, 2014; Rero, 2002).

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In 1908 figure skating became a recognised sport in the Olympics and is now one of the most popular games to watch it was in the summer Olympic Games until 1924 then became a winter game. The 1908 games took place in London where there were only 3 entrants to 2 of the 4 events. This guaranteed a medal to each of the contestants. Now figure skaters have to battle to get a place in the Olympics with specific quotas of participants.

Ice hockey originates from several different cultures and sports. It is related to carious sports played on the ice in America and in Europe since the Middle Ages. The sports similar to ice hockey are hurling and lacrosse. The first ever ice hockey match was placed in 1875 by the students at a University in Montreal. It took four years to lay down the rules. By the end of the
19th century the sport had spread through Canada and become so popular it was considered its national sport. Then in 1883 the first tournament was held in Montreal and a few years later a league was created. To organise the sport in a legitimate manner the Amateur Hockey
Association of Canada was founded in 1883. At the same time Hockey was introduced to the
United States where the sport took hold.

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In 1917 the first ever NHL ice hockey match took place. Game one had the Montreal Wanderers defeat the Toronto Arenas, 10-9 and saw Dave Ritchie of Montreal score the first goal in NHL history, an event that was witnessed by a lowly 700 fans. There were a mere 4 teams in the NHL at the founding; now there are 30 teams. Now Bell centre Montreal seats up to 21 thousand people. The three best teams in the NHL have a net value of over a billion dollars. Hockey in
Canada and the USA is like football in Britain. People follow it religiously and the sport has become a world renowned success.

The development of winter tourism started in the early 19th century, the accessibility to the Alps became easier and tourism started to increase, however the tourism was still only in the summer as winter was a considered hostile and dangerous, especially in the mountainous regions. In the second half of the century resorts in Switzerland developed and into winter resorts. It was still reserved for the wealthy and sport activities increased as a result. In a reply to demand ice skating rinks were built in the resorts, this was due to the demand from the clientele who wanted to practice the popular sport of artistic ice skating. Though it was more of a recreational pastime then an athletic competitive environment, there was even a dress code and particular attention was paid to how one would be dressed while skating, a fashion statement for the rich to show their wealth.
The biggest influence to the evolution of the ice skate into such specific and specialised segments is the public perception of ice skating. Without the demand for improvement in the domain there would not have been any significant improvement or development in ice skating.

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Technical aspects

The physics behind ice skating comes down to the movement of the skates on the ice. There are two possibilities that can occur, they can either glide or push off the ice with the edge of the blade. As can be seen in the diagram below the motion is forward but in a zigzag pattern, using the edges of the blade to push off the ice as well as glide in the direction parallel to the blade.

A study by N.M. Fennet investigated into the idea of why skates skate. To do so he used a method that measured the thickness of the water ice and air under the blade of the skate during dynamic movement of the skate. He states that the phenomenon of ice skating is surprisingly not understood fully even though it has been around for thousands of years.
The theory behind this experiment is that a water layer will be found under the skate based on a capacitance measurement. He further states that “The dielectric constants of ice, water and gas are different. Water has a relative dielectric constant of 87 (dimensionless), gas of 1 and the dielectric constant of ice is frequency dependent.”( Fennet, 2015).

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This means by measurement it is possible to find what medium is under the skate water or ice or air while it is in motion. N.M. Fennet revealed that we do not skate on ice but on water as thin layer 3.5 micro meters of water is generated why moving on the blade. This water barrier is most likely caused by the pressure exerted on the ice by the blade; the water barrier in question is what allows us to slide as it acts as a lubricant. The experiment shows that to be able to glide on ice a micro thin water barrier is necessary as lubricant between the ice and the blade (
Fennet, 2015)..
Using the data from the experiments conducted by Federico Formenti and Alberto E. Minetti, the evolution of the ice skate can be quantified.
The experiment shows the technological changes and performance changes that have evolved with the ice skates. Five different pairs of ice skates shown below were tested. They range from bone skates 1800 B.C to 2004 A.D composite skates. There experiment proves that the efficiency in terms of metabolic cost of locomotion decreases with the evolution by 75% as well as increase the speed to 4 times what used to be with bone skates while consuming the same metabolic power. According to Formenti et al. “Ice skates were probably the first human powered locomotion tools to take the maximum advantage from the biomechanical properties of the muscular system: even when travelling at relatively high speeds, the skating movement pattern required muscles to shorten slowly so that they could also develop a considerable amount of

force.”

The ice skates in the above picture are respecivly labeld in the table below. All recreated for the purpouse of testing. Each from a different era.

The table above is shows the biggest changes in the evolution on a technical scale. From the table above it is clear that the blade length has greatly increase from 210mm 1800 B.C to

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460mm in 2004, this can be explained by the factor that decrease friction by reducing the pressure on a single point. Therefore the extension of the blade was a logical improvement. The width of the blade has decreased rather dramatically from 14mm to 1mm, the decrease results in less friction when gliding forward. This was clear in 1700s when the insertion of steel allowed for stronger thinner blades that stayed sharper for longer. Steel didn’t only change the way ice skates were made but many other areas as well. The clearance from the ground gets bigger due to the fact that the clearance reduces the drag affecting the skate. The mass reduction reduces the pressure on the blade which in turn improves the dynamic friction coefficient. This method of weight reduction can be seen in many technological improvements such as cars, bicycles, clothing etc. as can be seen in the above table the dynamic coefficient of friction µ is greatly reduced allowing for increased speed and reduction in the metabolic cost (energy consumed by the user).

The test was done at both high speed and low speed. As can be seen in the table below there is a correlation with increase in speed and the stride frequency and length.
When analysing the speed versus the stride length at high speed and low speed it is clear that because the coefficient of friction is much lower on the new developed skates that the stride length is much larger for the 2004 then the 1800 or any of the other skates, with less frequency in strides as well.

It is clear that the development of the ice skate has been effective and that the improvements in technology play a big part in the evolution of the ice skate. The lower consumption of energy as described in table 1 shows that the original idea for reduction in time and increase speed as well as metabolic cost, which was the first purpose for ice skates has been reached.

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Future possibilities
Ice skating has become so renowned it is hard to know how the activity could progress. Figure skating, ice hockey are both in the winter Olympic game which is the epitome of sports. Ice skating is being incorporated into dance with extreme ice skating where they perform stunts and choreography on the ice, ice cross downhill championships sponsored by red bull. It is everywhere, and many major cities have out door ice skating rinks in the winter time: Prague, Brussels,
Birmingham, London, and Paris etc.

Future evolution
As composite technology improves it is possible for the materials of the ice skate to change.
Materials with lower drag coefficient or stronger more durable materials may be incorporated.
When thinking of the design of the ice skate it is possible to believe that a total redesign of the ice skate might occur. The only reason this is not being done is due to rules and regulations in sports which are very specific and therefore major alterations would not benefit the player interest would not peek to be able to sell the product on the market.

Conclusion
When it comes down to the question where does the ice skate originate from?
Through analyzing the research, the Finns were in the best position to get the best use of the

invention, but that hardly correlates to proof they invented skating. Many nations discovered technologies only to have others develop better uses and adaptations. Its effect on history and the present day is clearly visible through painting and pictures and in cultures around the globe.

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References
Oxford Dictionaries. (2015). ice skate. Available: http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/english/ice-skate?q=ice+skate&searchDictCode=all. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015. rero. (2002). Ice_Based_Sports_Common_Origins_Contrasting_Diffusion. Available: http://doc.rero.ch/record/19064/files/Ice_Based_Sports_Common_Origins_Contrasting_Diffusion__2002.pdf. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.
Tim Lambert. (-). THE VIKINGS DAILY LIFE. Available: http://www.localhistories.org/vikinglife.html. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.
Andrew Barbin. (2014). Origins of Ice Skating - Who Knew?. Available: http://worthnotingbyawb.blogspot.co.uk/2014/02/origins-of-ice-skating-who-knew.html. Last accessed
25 Feb 2015
Robert Munro. (1897). Prehistoric problems, being a selection of essays on the evolution of man and other controverted problems in anthropology and archæology . Available: http://archive.org/stream/prehistoricprob00munrgoog/prehistoricprob00munrgoog_djvu.txt. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.
Federico Formenti and Alberto E. Minetti. (2007). Human locomotion on ice: the evolution of ice-skating energetics through history. The Journal of Experimental Biology . 210 (1), p1-8.
Heidi Luik, Alice M. Choyke, Colleen E. Batey and Lembi Lõugas. (2003). From Hooves to Horns, from
Mollusc to Mammoth. Available: http://www.knochenarbeit.de/eigene_arbeiten/skating_on_bones.pdf.
Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.
Roes, A. (1963). Bone and Antler Objects from the Frisian Terp-mounds. Haarlem: H. D. Tjeenk Willink and Zoon, N. V
Kobayashi, T. (1973). Studies of the properties of ice in speed skating rinks. Ashrae J. 73, 51-56 ice skates museum. (2012). Ice skates and their history. Available: http://www.iceskatesmuseum.com/ehistorie-2.htm. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.
N. M. Fennet. (2015). Why skates skate. Available: http://openaccess.leidenuniv.nl/bitstream/handle/1887/31850/Nigel%20Fennet%20bachelor%20The sis.pdf?sequence=1. Last accessed 25 Feb 2015.

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