May I? The oldest snowshoe in the world!
This snowshoe from the late Neolithic did not belong to Ötzi, but it was discovered not too far away from where he was found, on the glacier of the Gurgler Eisjoch (Ötztal Alps). Since 2023 it is on display in the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology.
The oldest known snowshoe in the world is made entirely of birch wood. A 1.5-meter-long branch was bent into a rounded oval frame with a diameter of 32 centimeters. Several strands are stretched across the inside.
“While I was busy taking GPS measurements on the Gurgler Eisjoch glacier along the border between Italy and Austria at 3,134 meters above sea level, I found an object made of wood. I was certain I had found a farmer’s snowshoe which he might have lost in a cattle drive,” said the man who discovered the snowshoe, Simone Bartolini, a cartographer at the Institute of Military Geography in Florence.
Years later in an interview with the former director of the South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology, Angelika Fleckinger, Bartolini realized that the snowshoe could be much older and gave it to the South Tyrolean Office for Archaeology.
The provincial office allowed two different research institutes to conduct C14 radiocarbon dating, and this left no doubt: the snowshoe dates back to the late Neolithic Age between 3800 and 3700 BC. This means it is even older than Ötzi the Iceman, who met his end in the Ötztal Alps in 3200 BC.
This woven ring proves that people were already in the area of the main Alpine ridge in the Neolithic Age, finding ways and means of crossing the inhospitable heights of the Alpine ridge even under extreme conditions.
The oldest snowshoe in the world from Gurgler Eisjoch, Italian-Austrian Alps (c) Office for Archeology of the Province of Bolzano / South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology