In The Field

INQUA: Footprints from the past

There’s something inherently fascinating about trackways. Whether they come from dinosaurs, humans, or some other creature, footprints convey a linkage to the past in ways that bones or tools just can’t match.

As just one example, Steve Webb of Bond University presented here some findings about the Ice Age footprints in the Willandra Lakes area of southeastern Australia. This is a World Heritage site with the biggest collection of fossil footprints — more than 700 of them! — anywhere in the world. They show aboriginal children, teenagers, and adults walking around in what was once a wetland swamp but now is a dried-up lakebed.

Some sets of trackways appear to be converging, as if people were running toward the same point – could it have been a race? In another spot, Webb and his colleagues spent a long time pondering a strange mark which involved a footprint and another sort of hole-like depression. Their conclusion: A one-legged person was helping himself or herself along with a stick.

See some of the pictures of this vanished world in the appendix of the paper available online here.

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