A team of researchers has discovered 88 fossilized human footprints in Utah’s West Desert, the United States.
The newly-discovered human footprints are approximately 12,000 years old (Pleistocene epoch).
They were found in the alkali flats on the Utah Test and Training Range, a military testing and training area around 130 km (80 miles) west of Salt Lake City, Utah.
“We found so much more than we bargained for,” said Anya Kitterman, an archaeologist and cultural resource manager at Hill Air Force Base, Utah.
“The most surprising and telling thing about finding the footprints is the insight it provides into the daily life of a family group thousands of years ago,” added Dr. Daron Duke, principal investigator at Far Western Anthropological Research Group, Inc.
“Based on excavations of several prints, we’ve found evidence of adults with children from about 5 to 12 years of age that were leaving bare footprints.”
“People appear to have been walking in shallow water, the sand rapidly infilling their print behind them — much as you might experience on a beach — but under the sand was a layer of mud that kept the print intact after infilling.”
“There have been no wetland conditions to produce the trackways in this remote area of the Great Salt Lake desert since at least approximately 10,000 years ago,” he added.
“I like to refer to the Old River Bed Delta as a ‘Lost Oasis,’ because of how different this huge bountiful marshland would have been from the barren playa it is today.”
“As we face challenges today with the loss of water in the Great Salt Lake and across the Desert West, the area serves as a nearby example from the past as to how abruptly things can change.”
“Even with the area now part of the Utah Test and Training Range, in many ways, this serves as a preserve for these archaeological sites,” Dr. Duke said.
While the researchers are excited about the discovery of footprints, there is still further work ahead.
This will include preserving and protecting this and other important finds from blowing winds and erosion that could slowly destroy them.
“We have also collected the infill of the prints to see if we can find organic materials to radiocarbon date,” Dr. Duke said.
“We want to further detail the prints themselves as to who comprised the group and how they were using the area.”
“We are also talking to Native American tribes about their perspectives on the prints.”