In Albuñol, Granada, there is the Bat Cave. Two centuries ago, vestiges of a thousand-year-old cemetery were found there. There were utensils, bone awls, arrowheads, stone tools… And also baskets and about twenty esparto sandals. It is only now known that these sandals are the oldest footwear in Europe.
The archaeologist from the University of Alcalá and author of the new study is Francisco Martínez. He highlights that there are two large groups of esparto objects and materials. “The four best preserved are about 9,500 years old. They are from the Mesolithic period, two millennia before agriculture arrived in the region,” he highlights.
This means that those who made them were hunter-gatherers. Such dating places these items, all baskets, as the oldest in southern Europe and, probably, in all of Eurasia. The baskets had, like everything else in the cave, a funerary use. Inside some there were still hairs and presents, like poppy seeds.
As for sandals, “there is no footwear prior to espadrilles in Europe,” he adds. It is the oldest footwear in Europe. Only the soles remain of almost all of them. There are a couple of them from which what must have been strips emerge. They would be crossed like they do today in beach sandals and attached to the ankle.
The geologist from the Canary Islands Oceanographic Center, José Antonio Lozano, commented on the discovery. “Anywhere else the baskets and sandals would have disappeared. Organic matter fundamentally disappears because of water. “It facilitates the proliferation of bacteria that eat organic matter.” But there is no humidity here “due to the climate of the area and the topography and morphology of the cave.” The same dryness that preserved their esparteñas also mummified their bearers.
155 years ago, the archaeologist Góngora y Martínez already studied the cave. He left an interesting writing about it. “The dryness of the place, the nitro with which the walls were covered [sic] another agent difficult to point out, had perfectly preserved the corpses, trages [sic] and utensils. More than 40 centuries have respected that necropolis. Don’t tear it apart in one day like crazy people. [sic] “fools.”