The world's oldest snowshoe was found in the Italian Alps, near the border of Austria.
The 5,800-year old artifact was described on Monday at a press conference in Bolzano, Italy, as belonging to the ancestors of Ötzi the Iceman, the 5,300-year-old ice mummy found 25 years ago near a melting glacier in the Ötztal Alps in South Tyrol.
Simone Bartolini, a cartographer from the Military Geographical Institute in Florence, found the perfectly preserved snowshoe in the summer 2003, while doing a survey on the Gurgler Eisjoch glacier at 10,282 feet above sea level in the val Senales.
"I thought it was a 100-year-old snowshoe that was lost by a farmer. I kept it in my office for years," Bartolini said.
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Only last year, after talking to Angelika Fleckinger, director of the South Tyrolean Museum of Archaeology, Bartolini realized the artifact could have been much older.
Indeed, carbon dating from two labs determined the snowshoe was created in the late Neolithic age, between 3,800 and 3,700 BC.
The artifact was made entirely from birch wood, bending a 5-foot-long branch to an oval frame measuring 13 inches in diameter. Several strands were stretched inside the frame.
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