Snapshots of human anatomy, locomotion, and behavior from Late Pleistocene footprints at Engare Sero, Tanzania
OPEN Scientific reports | 16 May 2020
KG Hatala, WEH Harcourt-Smith, AD Gordon, BW Zimmer, BG Richmond, BL Pobiner, DJ Green, A Metallo, V Rossi and CM Liutkus-Pierce
Fossil hominin footprints preserve data on a remarkably short time scale compared to most other fossil evidence, offering snapshots of organisms in their immediate ecological and behavioral contexts. Here, we report on our excavations and analyses of more than 400 Late Pleistocene human footprints from Engare Sero, Tanzania. The site represents the largest assemblage of footprints currently known from the human fossil record in Africa. Speed estimates show that the trackways reflect both walking and running behaviors. Estimates of group composition suggest that these footprints were made by a mixed-sex and mixed-age group, but one that consisted of mostly adult females. One group of similarly-oriented trackways was attributed to 14 adult females who walked together at the same pace, with only two adult males and one juvenile accompanying them. In the context of modern ethnographic data, we suggest that these trackways may capture a unique snapshot of cooperative and sexually divided foraging behavior in Late Pleistocene humans.
* Data courtesy of Altmetric.com