News May 15, 2020 at 10:00 am

Scientists discover biggest collection of ancient footprints in Africa, possibly 19,000-year-old

Nii Ntreh May 15, 2020 at 10:00 am

May 15, 2020 at 10:00 am | News

The area around Lake Natron in northern Tanzania is the scene of Africa's biggest collection of most ancient footprints. Photo Credit: Kelsey Unger via Medium.com

Researchers have found in total, 408 fossilized footprints they believe were made potentially as far back as 19,000 years ago in an area near Lake Natron, in northern Tanzania.

The footsteps, according to CNN, are believed to belong to two adult males, 14 adult females and one juvenile male. The footprints form 17 different tracks in the ground.

The scientists are not very certain about the dating, placing the prints between 5,760 and 19,100 years into the past. Nonetheless, this finding is the largest collection of fossilized footprints ever found in Africa.

Author of the research in the Scientific Reports and assistant professor at Chatham University, Pennsylvania, Kevin Hatala, told CNN:

“The footprints were made in a volcanic mudflow, and when that wet ash dried it hardened almost like concrete. So the footprint surface itself is very resilient. But this surface was also buried by other layers of sediments, which helped to form protective layers that shielded the surface from the elements for thousands of years.”

In the report on their work, the scientists said the Engare Sero site where the footprints were found, “preserves the most abundant assemblage of hominin footprints currently known from Africa”.

Engare Sero is “roughly 100 km [62 miles] of the site of Laetoli, which preserves the earliest confidently attributed hominin footprints”.

The Engare Sero site was reportedly discovered by ethnic Maasai in that area. Since 2008, the site has been the scene of a number of archaeological excavations bearing positive results.

Archaeologists study fossilized footprints in order to hypothesize ideas about ancient human physiological, environmental and cultural activities.

Scientific historians have for a long time believed a good number of indigenous African tribes are the direct descendants of the earliest men and women and carry unique DNA markers. This feeds into the widely held belief that humans evolved from Africa millions of years ago.

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