(Image credit- Science News)
An astounding archaeological discovery has been made by an international team of experts under the direction of academics from the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Paleoenvironment.
A History of Human Footprints
The oldest human footprints ever discovered in the area are found in Lower Saxony, Germany, and date back an astounding 300,000 years. They are located within the Schöningen Palaeolithic site complex.
These prehistoric prints, which are thought to be remnants of Homo heidelbergensis, are joined by a symphony of animal footprints that together provide a vivid picture of the once-thriving ecosystem.
Imagine yourself in a charming birch-and-pine forest where the lush canopy is punctured by rays of sunlight. A spotless lake that stretches for miles shimmers like a sapphire jewel, reflecting the grandeur of the landscape.
Elephants, rhinoceros, and ungulate herds congregate in this wilderness refuge in search of comfort in the rivers. A small family of Homo heidelbergensis, a long-extinct human species, finds its place in this environment.
According to main author Dr. Flavio Altamura, a fellow at the Senckenberg Centre for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen (SHEP), “This is what it might have looked like at Schöningen in Lower Saxony 300,000 years ago.”
We investigated the fossil footprints from two sites in Schöningen in great detail for the first time.
A Glimpse of Ancient Life
Dr. Altamura and his team discovered three tracks in this trove of discoveries that remarkably resembled human footprints.
These extraordinary imprints, which date back about 300,000 years, are the earliest proof of human presence in Germany and provide information about our ancient ancestors, Homo heidelbergensis.
Two of the human footprints were attributed by the researchers to young people who roamed the lake’s beaches, taking advantage of the plentiful resources nearby.
The various tracks discovered at Schöningen provide a glimpse into a family’s daily life and provide important information about the social organization and behavior of hominin groupings. According to the study, these tracks also show their interactions and coexistence with elephant herds and other smaller species.
The group concluded that rather than a gathering of adult hunters, this location was more likely a family outing.
The research team also looked at a number of elephant traces from the extinct species Palaeoloxodon antiquus in addition to the human footprints. These elephants were the biggest terrestrial animals at the time, with adult bulls weighing up to 13 tonnes, and they had straight tusks.
The amazing elephant traces found in Schöningen are an astonishing 55 centimetres long. The excavation manager, Dr. Jordi Serangeli, reports that the crew found interesting wood bits inside these prints that had been driven into the loose dirt by the elephants.
Additionally, the first rhinoceros track from either the Pleistocene species Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis or Stephanorhinus hemitoechus has been discovered in Europe.
These animal and human footprints reveal a story of coexistence and interdependence.
They provide an amazing window into an ancient ecosystem where the cycle of life unfolded in perfect harmony and where stepping stones intermingled to form a vivid tapestry of existence.