By Emma Mitchell •
Published: 29 Sep 2023 • 17:33
6,000 year old shoes. Credit: Francisco Martínez-Sevilla et ak
“Holy jeepers Bat Man,” Robin exclaimed, “They’ve only gone and found some shoes older than my underpants in the Bat Cave!”
The bat cave in question is in Cueva de los Murciélagos, Andalucia, 2 km from the village of Albunol and around 450m above sea level. The cave was first accessed in the early 1800s by the land owner who collected bat guano from the main chamber for fertiliser. He also used to keep goats there until a vein of the mineral galena was discovered and a mining company moved in to work the cave in 1857.
The mining work led to the discovery of a chamber containing several partially mummified corpses surrounded by baskets, wooden tools, and other archaeological remains. Miners scattered the items or distributed them amongst the local villagers in Albunol. Most of the human remains are still to be located.
A decade after the chamber discovery and looting, the cave was visited by the archaeologist Manuel de Gongora y Martinez who collected information from the miners about the artefacts and published accounts of them.
Items from the site the archaeologist described included ceramic sherds, flint blades, polished axe heads, as well as perforated shells, wild boar teeth, stone and shell bracelets and a gold headband, known as a diadem. These artefacts are now in two museums in Madrid and one in Granada.
Among the perishable artefacts were woven baskets and a pair of sandals made from grass which were dated by conventional radiocarbon methods to between 5200 and 4850 BC placing the site in the Early Neolithic period. However modern dating methods have now concluded that the artefacts are 2,000 years older than previously thought – a staggering 6,000 years old. A few of the pieces even date back 9,000 years.
The study’s co-author María Herrero Otal, said the objects, “are the oldest and best preserved set of plant fibre materials in southern Europe so far known.” She added, “The technological diversity and the treatment of raw materials documented highlights the skill of prehistoric communities.”
Analysis of the sandals revealed they were made of different types of grass but also included other materials such as leather and lime. The new dating information makes them older than the 5,500-year-old leather shoes discovered in a cave in Armenia back in 2008.
The environmental characteristics of the caves, low humidity and cool winds kept the artefacts unusually well-preserved.
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Emma landed in journalism after nearly 30 years as an executive in the Internet industry. She lives in Bédar and her interests include raising one eyebrow, reckless thinking and talking to people randomly. If you have a great human interest story you can contact her on email@example.com
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