Could prehistoric people survive and colonize Antarctica?
Footprints reveal details of a 10,000 year old journey
However, the child was only carried in one direction. On the northbound lane, the left footprints are slightly larger, which could indicate that the toddler was carried on one hip. Sometimes there are also tracks where the hiker's foot slips on the muddy surface, leaving a banana-shaped imprint. However, when returning south, this size difference in the footprints is not noticeable and sliding is much less common. So it seems as if the person was no longer carrying any burden on the way back.
Researchers had previously suspected that differences between right and left footprints could be evidence of carrying a load. Often it was just speculation. The new study, however, offers more evidence: "In this particular case, you can see that a child's footprints suddenly appear halfway," says Hatala.
The animals' tracks helped the researchers estimate when the traveler crossed the area. After hiking north, the mammoth and giant sloth crossed his fresh tracks. However, the human footprints to the south overlay the footprints of the two animals. These overlays show that all the prints had to be made within a few hours before the mud dried completely again. The fact that humans and these extinct animals literally ran into each other indicates that the tracks must be at least 10,000 years old.
Different times, same customs
Reynolds, who is married to Bennett, was pregnant in 2017 when Bennet called her and told her about the long lead. “He was over the moon,” recalls Reynolds. They were particularly impressed by the child who was there. “Those tiny little footprints were just so unexpected,” she says. They called the tracks "Zoe's path" - the name they wanted to give their unborn daughter.
Much remains unknown about the prehistoric adventurer. Where did he want to go? What was the purpose of the hike? What happened to the child?
The person seemed to know the route well, Reynolds says. Perhaps she was following a path to another family or hunting party camp. “There was no hesitation, no getting lost,” she says. But the end point of the trip remains unknown, as the footprints lead to what is now the White Sands missile base, to which researchers have no access.
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