Sandals Discovered in Spanish Cave May Be Oldest in Europe
Researchers have unearthed what could be the oldest footwear ever found in Europe. A pair of sandals estimated to be up to 6,200 years old were discovered buried in a bat cave in southern Spain, near Granada. The cave, known as Cueva de los Murciélagos, also yielded baskets and tools, shedding light on early human communities.
Radiocarbon dating was used to determine the age of the 76 items found at the site. The sandals, made from esparto, a type of grass used in crafts throughout the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa, showcased the complex process involved in their creation. The grass had to be dried for several weeks before being rehydrated for 24 hours to make it flexible.
Similar sandals found in Armenia dating back 5,500 years, as well as the shoes worn by “Ötzi the Iceman” in Italy, which date back 5,300 years, highlight the significance of these newly discovered footwear. However, the sandals from Cueva de los Murciélagos represent the earliest and most diverse collection of prehistoric footwear in Europe.
Furthermore, the quality and complexity of the basketry found at the site challenge previous assumptions about early human societies. The cave, which once stored burial goods from various periods of early human history, could potentially date back 9,500 years. Its unique conditions, characterized by a lack of humidity and constant cooling wind, have preserved the items remarkably well.
Although the treasures hidden within the cave were first discovered in the 19th century, this recent study is the first to provide insights into their age and significance. The plant-based items found in the cave offer unique perspectives on prehistoric societies that relied heavily on perishable materials.
In a stroke of luck, the items almost fell victim to mining activity, but archaeologists managed to preserve and study them. However, the original location of the tools within the cave has unfortunately been lost, depriving researchers of crucial contextual information.
The discoveries in Cueva de los Murciélagos have opened up new avenues of research and enriched our understanding of early human civilizations. These ancient sandals are not just artefacts; they are a gateway to the lives and customs of our ancestors, offering a glimpse into a world that existed thousands of years ago.
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