Oldest Shoes Ever Discovered in Europe Found in Southern Spain
A groundbreaking analysis has revealed the oldest shoes ever discovered in Europe, according to a recent study published in the journal Science Advances. The remarkable finding shows that the 22 woven sandals date back an astonishing 6,000 years. Researchers from the Autonomous University of Barcelona and the University of Alcalá in Spain led the groundbreaking study.
The shoes, along with other ancient artifacts such as Mesolithic baskets and tools, were initially unearthed in a cave in southern Spain in 1857. However, when they were first examined in the 1970s, they were mistakenly believed to be approximately 1,000 years younger than this latest analysis has now proven.
The cave’s arid conditions played a crucial role in preserving these perishable materials, allowing for the astounding preservation of a prehistoric burial site complete with partially mummified corpses, baskets, wooden tools, sandals, and various other goods.
Described as “the oldest and best preserved set of plant fiber materials known to date in southern Europe,” by María Herrero Otal, one of the study’s authors, the shoes offer an exceptional glimpse into the craftsmanship skills of prehistoric societies.
In 1867, Spanish archaeologist Manuel de Góngora y Martínez took ownership of the remaining artifacts, including the sandals, and they were subsequently delivered to museums in Madrid and Granada. These museums have since provided researchers with valuable insights into the origins and details of the shoes.
The sandals were created using grasses and materials such as leather, lime, and ramie, a natural fiber. Based on Góngora’s descriptions, the study postulates that the bodies were buried wearing these sandals. Interestingly, some sandals showed clear signs of wear, while others appeared to have never been worn, suggesting that special clothing was made specifically for burial purposes.
The study also examined several baskets and other wooden artifacts from the collection. Researchers noted that these objects shed new light on the complexity of early-mid Holocene populations in Europe. The researchers emphasized that most knowledge of past societies is derived from durable artifacts, underscoring the significance of previously overlooked perishable materials like baskets. The Holocene epoch, which began 11,700 years ago, serves as the backdrop for this intriguing research.
Furthermore, both the baskets and sandals suggest that the creators possessed an extensive knowledge of the plant resources in the local environment, as well as a high level of expertise. Francisco Martínez Sevilla, one of the authors of the study, remarked, “The quality and technological complexity of basketry makes us question the simplistic assumptions we had about human communities before the arrival of agriculture in southern Europe.”
In an additional revelation, the study unveiled that the objects were deposited at the site during two distinct periods: the Early and Middle Holocene eras. The first phase was connected to early Holocene hunter-gatherer populations, while the second phase was associated with middle Holocene farmers.
This groundbreaking study challenges previous knowledge and paves the way for a deeper understanding of the intricate lives and customs of early European populations. The ancient shoes and other artifacts provide a remarkable glimpse into the past, offering crucial insights into the craftsmanship and resourcefulness of prehistoric societies.