A team of archaeologists who study ancient life and artifacts has discovered, inside a mammoth footprint, a track that belongs to an ancient human.
The researchers utilized a specific type of technology to scan the prints spread all over White sands National Monument in New Mexico, and that’s when hey discovered the human footprints.
How to Detect Ancient Human Footprints
The fascinating discovery allowed scientists to glimpse into life approximately 12,000 years ago at the end of the Pleistocene era. The identification was made possible with a ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scan, which can see underneath the surface of the ground and unveil covered contours.
GPR is used for many purposes, for instance, to check for cracks in railway lines, and also in geology and archaeology. However, this is the first time it has been used on fossilized footprints. The instrument promises to give researchers a peek into the host of tracks and prints invisible to the eye.
These hidden tracks can explain more than just who walked where. A footprint can unveil the size and pace of animals, how humans and megafauna connected with each other, and more information on the most recent Ice Age.
“We never thought to look under footprints,” says Cornell University research scientist Thomas Urban.
“But it turns out that the sediment itself has a memory that records the effects of the animal’s weight and momentum in a beautiful way. It gives us a way to understand the biomechanics of extinct fauna that we never had before.”
These types of records are incredibly rare, which makes them extremely exciting. Besides the found tracks, are 800 meters (2,626 feet) of human footprints, as well as tracks from a massive proboscidean, most likely a Columbian mammoth (Mammuthus columbi).
Tracks Alone Reveal Everything About the Ancient Creature
The discoveries correlate with studies conducted last year by the same research team. However, now, much more information and details were unveiled, as well as more hints about the sediment underneath the surface, which can suggest how the ancient beings were walking.
“But there are bigger implications than just this case study,” says Urban. “The technique could possibly be applied to many other fossilized footprint sites around the world, potentially including those of dinosaurs.”
Now that GPR is on hand, scientists don’t have to wait for suitable settings to be able to identify and study these footprints. Even though the mammoths and massive sloths that once lived the White Sands National Monument area are not coming back, the footprints they left behind can help scientists comprehend and put the pieces of the puzzle together – they can find out how these creatures traveled and walked, and how humans tracked them.
Even though researchers may never discover fossilized remains of the creature that left these particular footprints behind, they know the way it moved, how large it was, the speed it had, and what it was correlated with it just by analyzing the tracks, paleontologist Lisa Buckley, who was not part of the research team said.
“One animal will only ever leave one skeleton, but it has the potential to leave countless tracks in its lifetime,” she added.
The research has been published in Scientific Reports.