Researchers found well-preserved human footprints 14 kilometers away from the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano in Tanzania. The footprints, estimated to be over 400 in number, were left by early African Homo sapiens in the mud in an area called Engare Sero between 5,000 and 19,100 years ago.
Experts say that the footprints reveal that the early African Homo sapiens were moving at a brisk jogging speed. Some hominins from their group were also women and children travelling together. One of them also seems to have suffered from a broken big toe.
“The first time we went out there, I remember getting out of the vehicle, and I teared up a little bit,” says lead researcher Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce, a geologist from the Appalachian State University. “Human origins is a huge interest of mine: where we came from, and why we are who we are. It was definitely emotional to see our own history in this.”
The researchers knew about the site since 2008 but they only published their findings recently after performing years of research about the fossilized prints. When the early hominins traversed the site, the mud that came from the Ol Doinyo Lengai volcano was not dry so it managed to capture their tracks as they passed it.
However, these human footprints may have been covered by another debris flow from the volcano that occurred between 10,000 to 12,000 years ago. Moreover, the tracks were initially dated earlier because the research team thought that the mud came from an ash cloud.
When they used geochronological techniques, they realized that the footprints were not actually that ancient. It turned out that these tracks were only as young as 19,100 years old.
The research team says that they want to find out more about the people who made these tracks. They want to know how the hominins lived and socialized.