The following is an excerpt from Sarah Kaplan | October 12, 2016 | Thewashingtonpost.com |
The footprints weave intricate paths across the desolate landscape. Some tracks race straight toward an unseen finish line; others meander, the outlines of their ancient owners' toes and curves of their arches carved deeply into the sun-baked earth.
The air shimmers with heat, and the active volcano that locals call "the mountain of God" looms in the middle distance. It's not difficult for geologist Cynthia Liutkus-Pierce to imagine this scene as it would have looked thousands of years ago, when prehistoric people walked across the muddy terrain and left an indelible record of their presence pressed into the ground.
The site in northern Tanzania is the largest assemblage of ancient human footprints in Africa and one of the biggest on the planet, Liutkus-Pierce and her colleagues reported in the journal Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology. The 400-odd footprints, which cover an area the size of a tennis court, were imprinted in deposits from an ancient flood, dried, then covered up with a second layer of mud and preserved for as many as 19,000 years.
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