New Historian

World's Oldest Snowshoe Disovered in Northern Italy

Aerial Photograph of the Dolomites (2)

<![CDATA[In the Dolomite mountain range of the Italian Alps, not far from the Austrian border, a group of scientists have revealed they may have found the oldest snowshoe ever constructed anywhere. The twine-and-birchwood snowshoe, based on carbon-dating analysis, was constructed during the Late Neolithic between 3,800 BCE and 3,700 BCE, according to an article appearing in The Telegraph. The 5,800-year-old snowshoe is the oldest discovered so far, scientists say, and was stumbled upon nearly by accident on the Gugrler Eisjoch glacier at an elevation of 10,280 feet (3,134 meters). Researchers say that because of the frigid environment of the glacier, the conditions were “ideal” to preserve the organic materials from which the snowshoe was constructed. The twine-wrapped oval frame was discovered by cartographer Simone Bartolini as part of a project to map the Italian-Austrian border at the behest of the Military Geographical Institute of Italy in 2003. For more than a decade, Bartolini says he kept the snowshoe in his Florentine office as a strange memento of his work on the glacier, simply assuming that it was lost by a farmer or cattle-driver sometime in the last century. However, in 2015 he began to suspect that the find might have much more significance, prompting him to have it studied by archaeologists who confirmed the age of the snowshoe. The announcement was made this week in the South Tyrol city of Bolanzo, the capital of the autonomous province. Meanwhile, this is not the only rare archaeological find to have emerged from the Dolomite range. A quarter of a century ago, a pair of German hikers discovered the frozen remains of a Neolithic hunter nearby; nicknamed “Oetzi” for a local range of mountains, the mummified remains have been a near-constant source of archaeological data regarding how local Neolithic humans lived. Oetzi has provided information on how humans traveled, how they hunted, what they ate, and what they wore. Oetzi’s death is one of the oldest clearly recorded cases of homicide, as well. The remains, which have been dated to around 5,300 years ago, show clear evidence of Oetzi being first struck by an arrow and then possibly finished off with some sort of blunt instrument. The snowshoe, however, predates Oetzi by up to 500 years. According to Dr. Catrin Marzoli, who also spoke at the press conference, the shoe is proof positive that individuals residing in the region during the Neolithic had adapted themselves to the environment by equipping themselves appropriately. The director of the cultural heritage department for the province, Dr. Marzoli added that there are no clear indications as to why individuals might have been attempting to traverse such treacherous terrain, suggesting that the snowshoe could have been lost during a hunt, a visit to a pagan site of worship, or even during a panicked flight from enemies. Meanwhile, one of the reasons the snowshoe was discovered in the first place may have negative implications for modern humans. With climate change causing glaciers to recede, many new archaeological finds have come to light as a result – though increased climate change could spell disaster through coastal flooding caused by rising sea levels. Images of the find can be found here]]>

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