In a remarkable discovery, Spanish researchers have revealed Europe’s oldest known sandals are more than 6,000 years old! Meanwhile, they have found evidence of basketry (basket-making) in the hunter-gatherer societies of southern Europe from more than 9,500 years ago.
A Glimpse Into Ancient Craftsmanship
Published in the journal Science Advances, the recent study meticulously dated 76 objects discovered in the Cueva de los Murciélagos (Cave of the Bats) near Granada, Spain. These ancient relics, crafted from organic materials such as wood, reed, and esparto grass (Stipa tenacissima), included intricately woven baskets and finely crafted sandals, shedding light on the skill and artistry of ancient communities as long ago as the year 4000BC.
Initially thought to be the work of Neolithic farmers due to their elaborate decorations, geometric motifs, dyed fibers, and even human hair or pigment adornments, carbon-14 dating later revealed how these artifacts were crafted during the Mesolithic era, challenging previous assumptions about the lifestyle of pre-agricultural southern European communities—and meaning the products were more than 2,000 years older than previously believed.
Valuable Insights From Organic Artifacts
Much of our knowledge about past societies comes from durable artifacts, yet organic materials like grass and wood offer unique insights into ancient cultures and technological advancements. Southern Europe possesses limited well-preserved artifacts from organic materials due to challenges such as decay.
However, these plant-based artifacts provide invaluable information about societal traditions, trade networks, and human-environmental interactions.
The Idea Site
The remarkable preservation conditions at Cueva de los Murciélagos, characterized by low humidity and dry, cooling winds, have made it an ideal site for artifact preservation. The cave, initially assessed for bat guano (excrement), later revealed a rich array of artifacts during mining activities.
A Glimpse Into Ancient Times
The researchers are now embarking on an exciting journey to further unravel the mysteries of this ancient site by determining the age of human remains found within the cave using carbon-14 dating. This new window into prehistoric craftsmanship sheds light on ancient societies, their skills, and their adaptation to their environment, providing a deeper understanding of our shared human history—but we’ll stick to more recent shoe-making technology, thanks!