More fossil hominin footprints

You all remember the Laetoli footprints from Tanzania: footprints from what were probably three individuals of Australopithecus afarensis, made 3.6 million years ago as they walked across soft volcanic ash.  Those proved indubitably that our early ancestors were fully bipedal, and were a poignant snapshot of hominins long gone.

Scientific American now reports on another such finding: a group of footprints (also in Tanzania) from 18 individuals of Homo sapiens walking together on the shores of Lake Natron.  They’re dated at 120,000 years ago.  This discovery hasn’t yet been published, but was announced two days ago by Brian Richmond of George Washington University at the latest meeting of the Paleoanthropology Society.  As Sci Am reports, there were other human footprints as well, but one set seems to have been left by a social band of hominins:

The other group of prints, however, were made by 18 individuals walking together to the west.

To learn more about the these early travelers, Richmond and his colleagues compared the fossil footprints to a set of prints obtained experimentally from modern-day men and women from Ileret, Kenya, moving at a variety of speeds. Based on these measurements, the team concluded that the ancient human group was composed of men, women and children, with more women than men.

Now we already knew from fossils that H. sapiens was fully bipedal, but the paper may shed rare light on early human society.  Was 18 the size of this early human social group?

The Scientific American report didn’t have any photos, but I dug one up from the website of Dr. Cynthia Liutkus of Appalachian State University, who works on the Natron footprints:

Judging by the length and width, if this were a male he’d wear a size 7 D cowboy boot.

15 Comments

  1. starskeptic
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 5:33 am | Permalink

    …you show me impressions of that 120,000 yr old cowboy boot, and THEN we’ll discuss early human social behavior; this is obviously pre line-dancing…

    • moseszd
      Posted April 15, 2011 at 6:36 am | Permalink

      +1

    • daveau
      Posted April 15, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      Well, obviously, since Country & Western music wasn’t invented until 80,000 years ago.

      • starskeptic
        Posted April 15, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

        Ah yes, … takes me back to the bands of that era ‘Heidi & the Hominins’ ; ‘The sapiens5’ ; ‘Our Gang that threw large rocks at the other Gang who lives in the Valley’
        …good times…

  2. Reginald Selkirk
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 6:02 am | Permalink

    Judging from the spread of the toes, that individual never wore a cowboy boot in his life.

    • starskeptic
      Posted April 15, 2011 at 6:23 am | Permalink

      lol – damn Tanzanian hippies…

    • Posted April 15, 2011 at 7:36 am | Permalink

      Her life. There were more women than men in the group.

      • starskeptic
        Posted April 15, 2011 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

        …to be fair, Jerry did write “…if this were a male…” – but the odds are against it…especially carrying those Eemian cowboy boots…

  3. Dave B.
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 6:20 am | Permalink

    “Now we already knew from fossils that H. sapiens was fully bipedal…”

    And from looking out the window.

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted April 15, 2011 at 1:36 pm | Permalink

      Good point, but you should look out my window at the roaming bands of Friday night Chavs & Chavettes

    • Sili
      Posted April 20, 2011 at 7:28 am | Permalink

      O RLY?

  4. daveau
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Wow. A small social group. Or it may have been large for the time. Either way, very cool, and much to be gleaned.

  5. Posted April 15, 2011 at 7:37 am | Permalink

    Oooh. I love ancient footprints. Goosebumps.

  6. Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    Posted April 15, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    Early beach bums. I like the arch impression; hopefully they can study the mechanics and look for differences to todays no-shoe wearing people (assuming there are some left).

  7. Sili
    Posted April 20, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    These are obviously fake.

    There’s no trace of their dinosaur pack animals.


2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. […] More fossil hominin footprints Posted on April 15, 2011 by marksolock More fossil hominin footprints […]

  2. […] of human evolution, Jerry Coyne has a tasty tidbit concerning a recent find of hominin footprints: You all remember the Laetoli footprints from Tanzania: footprints from what were probably three […]

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