A team of scientists has identified Europe’s oldest known shoes, dating back 6,000 years. Unearthed from a bat cave nestled in the heart of Spain, these well-preserved relics signify the prehistoric communities’ technological diversity and material treatment skills.

The ancient mysteries concealed within the Cueva de los Murciélagos, or the Cave of the Bats, continue to unravel as researchers unearth a collection of artefacts that challenge the chronicles of human history.

However, the surprises did not stop there, as some items within this extraordinary collection have been traced back as far as 9,000 years. The findings astonish researchers and challenge previously held beliefs about ancient European civilisations.

The discovery was made in a cave that had once been plundered by miners in the 19th century. The cave’s treasures were largely overlooked. Located in Spain, the cave offered a unique environment conducive to preservation. Its low humidity levels and cold winds were an ideal combination to protect the ancient artefacts from the ravages of time.

The 6,000-year-old shoes provide a window into the footwear preferences and craftsmanship of prehistoric communities in southern Europe.

Researchers have also uncovered well-preserved baskets and tools in the cave. These artefacts represent the oldest and best-preserved plant fibre materials in southern Europe, according to María Herrero Otal, a co-author of the study.

The discovery of these ancient items has rewritten the timeline of human activity in the cave. New dating techniques have revealed that the 76 objects in the cave are approximately 2,000 years older than initially believed.

The sandals, which date back to the Neolithic period, offer a fascinating glimpse into the footwear preferences of our ancient ancestors. Unlike modern counterparts, they feature a complex combination of materials, including various grass types, leather, and lime. The amalgamation of these materials speaks to the resourcefulness and craftsmanship of early European societies.

The 6,000-year-old sandals discovered in the Cave of the Bats predate previously acclaimed relics like the 5,500-year-old leather shoes found in an Armenian cave in 2008. This revision of the prehistoric fashion timeline poses questions about the interactions and exchanges of knowledge between these ancient civilisations.

The Cave of the Bats, located in Andalusia, south-west Spain, has a rich history far beyond its recent archaeological fame. It was initially accessed in 1831 by a landowner who collected bat guano for fertiliser production. However, it wasn’t until later that miners, seeking valuable resources, stumbled upon a gallery filled with treasures from the distant past.

Within the cave’s depths, they encountered partially mummified corpses, ancient baskets that provided a glimpse into prehistoric daily life, and a unique collection of wooden tools. The discovery of wild boar teeth and a distinctive gold diadem among other artifacts further underscores the cave’s significance.