Footprints mark the dangerous prehistoric journey of a toddler


Several thousand years ago, a young adult walked barefoot in a muddy landscape. A child was balanced on the adult’s hip. There were large animals – mammoths and ground sloths – just above the horizon. It was a dangerous journey, and scientists reconstructed it by closely studying an extraordinary set of recently found human and animal footprints in the southwestern United States.

“It’s a wonderful trackway, not covered in research that was published online in this month’s Quaternary Science Review,” said Neil Thomas Roach, anthropologist at Harvard University. “We rarely get as good as the tracks Are preserved in the way these are. “

It is one of the most widespread Pleistocene-age trackways found to date, and highlights how ancient sets of fossil footprints can reveal more than fossil bones. It is rare for bones to reveal behaviors, but Sally C. Reynolds, a paleoecologist at Bournemouth University in England and author of the study, said the tracks could shed much light on animal interactions.

The prehistoric young adult and toddler’s round-trip trip was seen in 2017 at White Sands National Park in southern New Mexico. This sequence extends over a mile and contains at least 427 human prints. Researchers suggested that the trip outside was probably completed in a few hours. (The gypsum sand that records prints do not hold water well, so the position of the mud occupying the print is short-lived.)

Most human footprints were made by either a barefoot teen of sex, or a young adult female, about 6 feet in size, the team determined. But about 100 yards or so, some very small human prints suddenly appear within the north-east set of tracks.

Dr. “We have many adult tracks, and then every time again we have these young kids,” Reynolds said.

An aged child was being carried and kept on muddy ground from time to time as the caregiver re-unjusted its human load, the researchers surveyed based on the three-dimensional digital model they assembled did. There are no toddler footprints within the southeast set of tracks, so the child was probably not taken on that trip.

It is likely that the child is riding on the young man’s left hip. There is a slight asymmetry between the left and right tracks on the north-east set of tracks. Dr. Reynolds said that side is compatible with someone with extra weight.

He and his colleagues estimated the young man was shaming at four mph. This is a good clip: “Imagine running for a bus,” Dr. Reynolds said. “It’s not a walk.”

Dr. Reynolds suggests that the urgency of travel may have some effect. “Why else would you travel so fast but nurture yourself with a child?”

However, there was one more reason to hurry on the landscape – the presence of large and potentially dangerous animals. Both tracks reveal a huge path, located between a giant slowness and the path of humans. Their markings appear above the footsteps on the north side, but down on the south side, meaning that the animals move through humans at some point.

Mammath – most likely an ox, depending on the size of its tracks – apparently did not include humans who had walked a few hours earlier; Its tracks do not indicate any response. The giant slowness, on the other hand, stopped and shuffled into a circle when it encountered the human trackway, its prints indicate. Dr. Reynolds said that Sloth’s reaction suggests that humans positioned themselves at the top of the food chain.

In future, Drs. Reynolds and his colleagues hoped to better understand the people settled in the region. For example, it is an open question whether they moved according to the weather or stayed in one area throughout the year, Drs. Reynolds said. “We were trying to collect these little photos like life in the past.”

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