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The oldest human footprint in Africa: with its help, scientists “read” human behavior

The oldest human footprint in Africa

Discovered the oldest traces of man in Africa have opened to science a new understanding of early human behavior. About thousand years ago, the volcano in Tanzania, which was called the "Mountain of God" in the language of the local Masai, became the epicenter of the disaster. A powerful earthquake occurred, and huge streams of ash and lava filled the area around the volcano. The molten mass mixed with soil, water from a nearby lake, forming a huge layer that occupied the plain.

But before cooling down, this mass managed to capture the traces of human legs and they can be seen today. Scientists believe that these traces are the oldest traces of Homininae that have ever been discovered in Africa. They are known as traces of Engare Sero.


Biologist Kevin Hatala of Chatham University in Pittsburgh conducted a new study, studying prehistoric footprints and learning about people who left them about a millennia ago. Previous studies in 2008 calculated that the age of the tracks is approximately 5750-19100 years. But recent studies conducted using modern technology and chemical analyzes have shown that the footprints are at least 120 thousand years old.

This fact surprised the scientists. They believe, that the earliest traces of Homininae were left about 3.7 million years ago. Traces that appeared 120 thousand years ago - this is the second stage in the development of Homininae in Africa. The first and the second tracks are located in a hundred kilometers from each other.

In total, scientists have a collection of 408 tracks. A large group of people left them. Who they were and in what direction they were moving, the science does not exactly know. But the hominins of both time periods did not use shoes because traces were left with bare feet.


17 pairs of legs had a moderate walking speed. It was probably a group of people that was moving simultaneously in a southwestern direction. 14 of them were women, and there were two adult men and one young man with them. In another group there were six people.

They all went in the opposite direction with different speeds. People did not go together, but moved to the northeast. Scientists suggest that they could be hunters and they went for their prey.