In a remarkable discovery, scientists have identified what they believe to be the oldest pair of sandals ever found in Europe, dating back over 6,000 years. These ancient footwear items were part of a larger collection of artifacts unearthed in a cave system inhabited by bats in southern Spain.
A team of researchers from the Universidad de Alcalá and the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona announced that these findings provide the first direct evidence of basketry in the context of hunter-gatherer societies and early farmers in Southern Europe. These extraordinary items were uncovered in the Cueva de los Murciélagos de Albuñol in Granada, Spain.
The discoveries include not only sandals but also baskets and organic tools typically associated with early Neolithic farming communities. Through material analysis and advanced technology, the scientists have determined that these items date back to the early and middle Holocene period, spanning from 9,500 to 6,200 years ago.
Francisco Martínez Sevilla, a researcher from the Prehistory Department at the University of Alcalá, expressed how these findings challenge simplistic assumptions about prehistoric communities. He stated in a press release, “The quality and technological complexity of the basketry makes us question the simplistic assumptions we have about human communities before the arrival of agriculture in Southern Europe.”
The pair of sandals found in the cave represents what scientists describe as the “earliest and most diverse collection of prehistoric footwear, both in the Iberian Peninsula and Europe.” These ancient shoes were remarkably well-preserved, thanks to the cave’s low humidity levels.
The report detailing these discoveries, published in the journal Science Advances, notes that the objects initially came to light during mining activities in the 19th century and were documented by Manuel de Góngora y Martínez. The cave’s geological characteristics, resulting in extremely low humidity levels, played a vital role in preserving these organic materials over millennia.