Toes and Soles of Fossilized Footprints are Now 3-D Digitized

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Ancient Toes and Soles of Fossilized Footprints Now 3-D Digitized for the Ages

by Brian Handwerk/Smithsonianmag.com

While walking in the shadow of their people’s sacred volcano, Maasai villagers in 2006 stumbled across a set of curious footprints. Clearly made by human feet, but set in stone, they appeared to be the enigmatic traces of some long-forgotten journey.

Now scientists have teased out some of story behind those ancient prints and the people who, with some help from the volcano, left them behind. It begins while they were walking through the same area as the Maasai—separated by a span of perhaps 10,000 years.



“It’s kind of amazing to walk alongside these footprints and say, ‘Wow, thousands of years ago somebody walked here. What were they doing? What were they looking for? Where were they going?’” says Briana Pobiner, a paleoanthropologist at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History with the Human Origins Program. Pobiner is one of the scientists who has studied the prints at Engare Sero in Tanzania during the 14 years since their initial discovery.

An in-depth footprint analysis has now produced an intriguing theory to explain what the walkers were doing on the day when impressions of their toes and soles were preserved on a mudflat. Pobiner and her colleagues, in a study recently published in ..read more:

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