Tech UPTechnologyAlmost a hundred human footprints from 12,000 years ago...

Almost a hundred human footprints from 12,000 years ago discovered in the Utah desert


12,000 years ago, during the last ice age, a group of ancient settlers, children and adults, left human footprints that have now been discovered in the salt flats of the Air Force Utah Test and Training Range (UTTR) by Cornell researcher Thomas Urban during an investigation.

The finding evidences a total of 88 human footprints that belonged to both adults and children from five to 12 years old. Alongside them, the researchers found two open-air fire pits and evidence of earliest human tobacco use some 800 meters away.

“It was a truly serendipitous find,” said Urban, a research scientist in the College of Arts and Sciences and the Cornell Tree Ring Laboratory.

They returned the next day and conducted a ground-penetrating radar survey of one of the two visible tracks. They quickly managed to identify what treasure was hidden in this dry desert (in fact, 33% of Utah County is complete desert, making it the second driest state in the United States after Nevada). “We detected a lot more invisible fingerprints on radar,” Urban said.


Footprints preserved for 12,000 years

A change in climate turned Utah’s wetlands into a wasteland, along with Utah’s landlocked location cutting off moisture-laden ocean winds .

The footprints only appear when there is just the right amount of moisture in these salt pans, and disappear when there isn’t. Experts determined that these ancient ancestors walked through the shallow waters of this area during the ice age when the landscape was covered with wetlands (now dry). Even though the sand in the water quickly filled his footprints, the mud just below kept them intact. The anthropological team baptized them as “ghost tracks”, due to this characteristic that they appear suddenly when the humidity conditions are right and disappear again when they do not exist.

The researchers confirmed that the makers of these footprints were barefoot, documenting nearly a hundred footprints that offer insights into family life from the Pleistocene epoch .

“Based on excavations of several footprints, we have found evidence of adults with children between the ages of five and 12 who were leaving footprints,” the researchers said in an Air Force news release. “It appears that people were walking in shallow water, the sand rapidly filling their footprint behind them, as one might experience on a beach, but underneath the sand was a layer of mud that kept the footprint intact after filling.”

and more finds

But not only did they find the footprints. Less than a kilometer away was the oldest evidence of human tobacco consumption.

“We found much more than we expected,” Anya Kitterman , the Air Force cultural resources manager for the area, said in a statement.

While this Utah site is not as old and may not be as extensive as White Sands, where footprints dating back 23,000 years were found in 2021, there could be much more to be found.

“We have long wondered if other sites like White Sands existed, and if ground penetrating radar would be effective in imaging footprints at locations other than White Sands, as it was such a novel application of technology. The answer to both questions is yes,” Urban concluded.

The team said they will publish a full study in the near future.

Referencia: Ice Age human footprints discovered in Utah desert (2022, July 26)
retrieved 26 July 2022
Cornell University


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