Geologists in northern Tanzania have unearthed more than 400 ancient human footprints believed to be at least 19,000 years old, according to the Daily Mail. The enormous set of footprints was discovered in Engare Sero village on the northern shores of Lake Natron. They were preserved in the mud, nine miles away from the sacred Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano site, locally known as the “Mountain of God.”
Initially, geologists thought the footprints were 120,000 years old and preserved by ash that fell from the neighboring volcano, but further research has revealed the actual age of the prints and also confirmed that a muddy flow of debris and ash from the volcano preserved the footmarks,.
“There is one area where there are so many prints, we’ve nicknamed it the “dance hall,” because I’ve never seen so many prints in one place. It’s completely nuts,” City University of New York paleoanthropologist William Harcourt-Smith told National Geographic.
According to Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce, a geologist from Appalachian State University and leader of the team that discovered the footprints, the Engare Sero footprint site adds to the unique record of fossil footprint found in sites around the world.
She believes the site is the only one in Africa that has such a huge number of Homo sapien footprints.
“This means that the Engare Sero prints are latest Pleistocene in age,” Liutkus-Pierce said.
“They record traces of our ancestors, their activity, and behavior, during the latest Pleistocene along the margin of Lake Natron in Tanzania”.
Researchers also identified footprints of a group of more than 12 people travelling together and evidence that some of the prints were made by people jogging.
However, Liutkus-Pierce and her team are not the first people to discover the footprints as the site was discovered by a villager more than ten years ago.
Scientific research at the site started in 2008 after American conservationists toured the area.
Liutkus-Pierce’s team is now considering the long-term preservation of the site, teaming up with the Smithsonian to create 3D scans of the entire area.