Europe's oldest shoes identified in Spain

Europe's oldest shoes identified in Spain
Sandals from the Cueva de los Murciélagos

Spanish scientists have identified the oldest shoes in Europe. They are 6,000-year-old sandals found by miners in a cave in the 19th century that have recently been the subject of a new analysis.

The sandals, made of woven grass, were exceptionally well preserved due to the low humidity and fresh air circulating in the cave. The researchers also analysed a basket and several tools.

These objects constitute “the oldest and best-preserved assemblage of plant-fibre materials discovered so far in southern Europe,” according to María Herrero Otal, co-author of the study. “The technological diversity and processing of the raw materials bear witness to the skills of the prehistoric communities.”

New technologies have shown that the collection of 76 objects found in the Cueva de los Murciélagos (Cave of the Bats) in Andalusia is in fact 2,000 years older than originally estimated, with some objects even dating back more than 9,000 years.

The sandals are made from different types of fibre, as well as other materials such as leather and lime. According to researchers, they date back to the Neolithic period and are older than the 5,500-year-old leather shoes discovered in a cave in Armenia in 2008.

The Cueva de los Murciélagos was first discovered in 1831 by a man collecting bat droppings to make fertiliser. Less than 20 years later, miners working in the cave discovered a gallery containing partially mummified bodies, baskets, wooden tools and a gold crown.

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