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ARCHAEOLOGY

Shoe that lay in prof’s office is nearly 6,000 years old

A snowshoe discovered over a decade ago in Italy’s Dolomite mountains and previously thought to belong to a nineteenth century cattle farmer is actually nearly six thousand years old, it has been revealed.

Shoe that lay in prof's office is nearly 6,000 years old
The snowshoe was just a few thousand years older than thought. Photo: Roman Clara/Bolzano regional government
The shoe was found in 2003 in the melting snow of Gurgler Eisjoch glacier by Simone Bartolini, a cartographer for the Military Geographic Institute in Florence. Bartolini was mapping the Austrian-Italian border in South Tyrol, a German-speaking area of northern Italy. 
 
Assuming the shoe to be about a hundred years old, Bartolini displayed the shoe in his office as a memento. He only realised that it was much older than previously thought after discussing it with an archaeologist colleague. 
 
Radiocarbon dating by two separate labs now shows the shoe dates from 3800-3700 BC. This makes it up to 600 years older than the famous ice man Ötzi, who was found in 1991 just seven kilometres from the site of the latest discovery.
 
The shoe was presented at a press conference in South Tyrol on Monday. It is made from a 1.5 metre piece of birch wood bent into an oval. 
 
“It is the oldest snowshoe in the world,” the scientists said in a statement.
 
Catrin Marzoli, director of the South Tyrol office of archaeological monuments, told a press conference in Bolzano on Monday that the snow shoes were almost identical to those worn in the area until just a few decades ago.
 
“The glacier has given us an exceptional testimony”.
 
“It indicates that as early as the late Neolithic period people with proper equipment were present on the alpine watershed at an altitude of over three thousand meters,” she said, according to Südtirol News
 
Archaeologists believe that ancient glaciers melted by global warming could turn up a large number of prehistoric finds in the future.

ARCHAEOLOGY

Remains of nine Neanderthals found in Italian cave

The fossil remains of nine Neanderthal men have been found in a cave in Italy, the culture ministry announced Saturday, a major discovery in the study of our ancient cousins.

Neanderthal fossils discovered in Italy
Photo: MARCO BERTORELLO / AFP

All the individuals found in the Guattari Cave in San Felice Circeo, located on the coast between Rome and Naples, are believed to be adults, although one might have been a youth.

Eight of them date to between 50,000 and 68,000 years ago, while the oldest could be 90,000 or 100,000 years old, the ministry said in a statement.

“Together with two others found in the past on the site, they bring the total number of individuals present in the Guattari Cave to 11, confirming it as one of the most significant sites in the world for the history of Neanderthal man,” the ministry said.

READ ALSO: Ancient Roman home and mosaics unearthed during Italian apartment renovation

Culture Minister Dario Franceschini hailed the find as “an extraordinary discovery which the whole world will be talking about”.

Francesco Di Mario, who led the excavation project, said it represented a Neanderthal population that would have been quite large in the area.

Local director of anthropology Mario Rubini said the discovery will shed “important light on the history of the peopling of Italy”.

“Neanderthal man is a fundamental stage in human evolution, representing the apex of a species and the first human society we can talk about,” he said.

The findings follow new research begun in October 2019 into the Guattari
Cave, which was found by accident by a group of workers in February 1939.

On visiting the site shortly afterwards, paleontologist Albert Carlo Blanc made a stunning find – a well-preserved skull of a Neanderthal man.

The cave had been closed off by an ancient landslide, preserving everything inside as a snapshot in time that is slowly offering up its secrets.

Recent excavations have also found thousands of animal bones, notably those
of hyenas and the prey they are believed to have brought back to the cave to eat or store as food.

There are remains of large mammals including elephant, rhinoceros, giant deer, cave bear, wild horses and aurochs – extinct bovines.

“Many of the bones found show clear signs of gnawing,” the ministry statement said.

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