The Story of Strappy Sandals

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Scientists recently discovered Europe’s oldest footwear, nearly 170 years after they were initially found in a cave in southern Spain, NBC News reported.

In 1857, miners entered the Cueva de los Murciélagos (cave of the bats) near Granada and came across a burial site containing partially mummified corpses, and a trove of archaeological treasures, including plant-based tools, baskets and sandals.

Sadly, many of those artifacts and remains were burned or discarded. Still, a research team recently studied the surviving artifacts using radiocarbon dating and found they were older than previously believed.

In their paper, they estimated that most of the ancient objects could be around 9,500 years old, adding that the sandals could be up to 6,200 years old.

The team explained that sandals had no laces and were equipped with a single braid fixed to the middle which could be tied around the wearer’s ankle. Some of the sandals were worn, but others showed no signs of usage and were made for the dead, the authors noted.

They added that the ancient individuals made footwear from esparto, a kind of grass used in crafts across the Iberian Peninsula and North Africa for thousands of years.

Similar sandals found in Armenia are estimated to be 5,500 years old, while the shoes worn by “Ötzi the Iceman” – a prehistoric man found in Italy in 1991 – are dated to 5,300 years ago.

Researchers explained that the cave’s cool, dry conditions allowed the perishable plant-based artifacts to survive throughout millennia.

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