Ancient footprints found along England's coast

Emerging from the veil of time, footprints along a Norfolk beach are thought to be the oldest ever discovered outside of Africa.

Ancient footprint
This print might not look like much, but it's an amazing archaeological find. Video screenshot by Amanda Kooser/CNET

Sometimes storms uncover interesting things. A storm uncovered some footprints along a Norfolk beach in England. This wouldn't be too odd, except these footprints are more than 800,000 years old. That's ancient enough to earn them the distinction of being the oldest footprints found outside of Africa.

You can't just dust for footprints, so researchers had to use their knowledge of the area's sediments to date the markings. Archaeologists from the British Museum and Trinity St David's University accidentally stumbled on the footprints during a geophysics survey of the shore last May.

Researchers were able to make out distinctive markings from heels, arches, and even toes, that had been preserved over the years by layers of beach sand and sediment.

The proximity to the sea meant that the footprints were wiped away, but not before scientists had thoroughly recorded them in photos and on video, and made 3D reconstructions of the prints. Those digital reconstructions helped researchers determine that the prints were likely made by a family group of at least five different adults and children, the tallest being about 5 foot 9 inches.

The scientists believe the footprints were most likely left by Home antecessor, an upright bipedal species also known as "Pioneer Man." The results of the study are scheduled to be published in the journal PLOS ONE.

(Via BBC News)

 

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