Researchers say hunter-gatherers made baskets 9,500 years ago | ET REALITY


Hunter-gatherer societies in the Iberian Peninsula made sophisticated baskets with decorative geometric patterns 9,500 years ago, more than 2,000 years earlier than previously thought, according to researchers in Spain.

The researchers also said that the sandals found in the same cave as the baskets represent the “oldest and most diverse assemblage of plant-based footwear documented in European prehistory.”

Francisco Martínez-Sevilla, prehistory researcher at the University of Alcalá and main author of a document describing the findings which was published this week in Science Advances, explained that carbon-14 dating tests had been performed on 76 objects that were found by 19th-century miners in Cueva de los Murciélagos, a cave in southern Spain.

The objects, including the oldest pair of sandals in Europe, a wooden club and mace, and exquisitely crafted baskets from reed and esparto grass, were previously believed to have been made by Neolithic farmers.

But carbon-14 testing by Dr. Martínez-Sevilla’s research group, which recently excavated human remains in the cave, showed that the best-preserved baskets were, in fact, made by hunter-gatherer communities in the Mesolithic era. . 9,500 years ago. Some show signs of sophisticated craftsmanship, with decorative dyed geometric patterns, and were previously attributed to the Neolithic period, which arrived more than 2,000 years later.

“My first reaction was, ‘My God, that’s not possible,’” Dr. Martínez-Sevilla said in a telephone interview, explaining how the discovery suggested that Mesolithic societies may have been more complex than previously imagined. “When we realized the magnitude of the findings, we published the article with all the analyzes in less than a year.”

in a statement Commenting on the findings, Dr. Martínez-Sevilla added: “The quality and technological complexity of basketry makes us question the simplistic assumptions we had about human communities before the arrival of agriculture in southern Europe.”

The entrance to the Bat Cave is hidden in a rock wall.Credit…Francisco Martínez-Sevilla

Katina LiliosAn anthropological archaeologist at the University of Iowa, who was not involved in the study, said the research “expands our understanding of the technologies of foraging peoples of the time.”

“It is also very important to be able to track changes over time in the form and techniques of plant-based technologies, especially given how little plant-based artifacts are preserved,” Professor Lillios said in an email. electronic.

The study said the items found in the cave had been preserved for thousands of years due to the lack of moisture in the area combined with the wind circulating inside, which kept the cave cool and dry, preventing the spread of bacteria.

“The preservation at the Bat Cave site is truly remarkable,” Professor Lillios said, “and it is fantastic to see that archaeologists have been able to date a larger sample of the plant artefacts found there.”

Investigation of artifacts from the Cueva de los Murciélagos, which means bat cave, revealed human hair embedded within the fibers of Mesolithic baskets. “Hair from this period has never been found,” said Dr. Martínez-Sevilla.

The study said that the items found in the cave were preserved due to the lack of humidity combined with the wind circulating inside, which kept the cave cool and dry and prevented the spread of bacteria.Credit…Blas Ramos Rodríguez

Dr. Martínez-Sevilla’s group now hopes to conduct carbon-14 testing on human remains excavated from the cave, some of which may also be from the Mesolithic era.

Ruth Maícas Ramos, curator of the National Museum of Archeology in Madrid, which houses much of the collection, and author of the article published this week, noted that when a pioneering 19th-century archaeologist, Manuel de Góngora, published his conclusions on the discovery of miners in 1868, “no one believed at the time that they were so old” because they were very well preserved and made with materials and weaving techniques that are still used.

In fact, Maícas Ramos added, “sandals are no different from modern espadrilles.”

Michael Levenson contributed with reports.

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