Oldest Traces of Fossilised Human Footsteps Discovered in New Mexico
Image of the fossilised footsteps.
Scientists have discovered the longest known track that a human being, most likely a mother, took in a haste some 13,000 years ago.
The footprints were discovered from a dried-up lake bed known as a playa, at the White Sands National Park in New Mexico, US. The hundreds of thousands of footprints can be from a time between about 11,550 years ago to about 13,000 years ago.
The ancient human, who also could be an adolescent male, was in a hurry. Research showed that they were walking at over 1.7 metres per second, whereas a comfortable walking speed is about 1.2 to 1.5 metres per second on a flat dry surface. The track made by a fossilized footprint from the end of the last ice age is over at least 1.5 km and remarkably straight, suggesting that the person wanted to reach their destination the fastest possible. Interestingly, there are some footprints of a child visible in the middle of the track, most likely from the time the mother put the child down to change hips or take a rest.
While the reason for the hurry could be bad weather or some other preoccupation, the best guess put forward by the researchers is the looming danger of the mega fauna that traversed the region during those days. Massive beings like the mammoths, giant sloths, sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, bison and camels were predominant in the region and while these were hunted by humans, a solitary human being with a child on their hip could very well be threatened and hence the fast pace.
Interestingly, there are two sets of footsteps. But on the return journey, the mother is an adult. So it could be that they were entrusted with the duty to drop the child somewhere and then they made a hasty return.