In a study published in Scientific Reports, scientists reported the presence of hominin footprints from the Pleistocene period on the coast of Morocco.1
Imagine walking on the beach, the breeze coming from the sea, the waves hitting your feet. You are not alone, there are a few other people with you. Maybe they are your family, maybe your friends, maybe the strangers you walk with. You are not on a vacation, but on a quest for survival. You are looking for food, water or shelter. All the footprints you left on the beach resist time with all its might, and after almost 90,000 years, someone is examining your footprints and forming opinions about you.
This is not a scene from a movie or documentary. Scientists recently made a stunning discovery and found human footprints dating back thousands of years on the coast of Morocco. They used a technique called OSL dating to determine the age of the footprints, coming up with a range of 82,700 to 97,900 years old.
After detailed examination, researchers think that the footprints belong to at least five different individuals of Homo sapiens: two children, a petite adult, a medium-sized adult, and a tall adult, possibly male.
The imprints in the ground unveil the physical attributes and movements of those who left them behind. Analyzing 81 footprints and contrasting them with contemporary human footprints, researchers discovered a range of statures among those who left the footprints, spanning from 120.8 cm (47.5 inches) to 189.0 cm (74.4 inches).
The researchers also examined how the footprints were spread in relation to the coastline. They found that the majority of the footprints were oriented towards the sea, suggesting that the people, identified as hunter-gatherers, were likely searching for marine resources, such as fish or shellfish.
Coastal areas are known to have been important for early human populations, as they offered abundant and diverse food sources, as well as raw materials and tools. However, no other type of archaeological or anthropological evidence, such as fossils, stone artifacts or occupation structures, has yet been found in the Larache site or its surroundings.
The Archaeological Site is Under Threat
The researchers stated that the site is under threat from natural and human factors. They observed that the rocky shore platform where the footprints are located is collapsing due to marine erosion, which could lead to the loss of the site down the line. They also noted that new footprints could be exposed as sediments are eroded, which could offer more information on the size and composition of the human group. Recommendations include monitoring and protecting the site, as well as exploring nearby caves for possible traces of human occupation.
The discovery of the ancient human footprints in Morocco is being evaluated as a remarkable contribution to the study of human evolution and history. It shows that our ancestors were active and adaptable in different environments and climates. It also raises many questions and mysteries about their lives, such as: Who were they? Where did they come from? Where did they go? What did they do? How did they interact with each other and with other species? What challenges did they face and how did they overcome them? What legacy did they leave behind?
These are some of the questions that the researchers hope to answer in the future, as they continue to investigate the site and its surroundings. They also hope to share their findings with the public, and to inspire curiosity and wonder about our origins and our place in the world.
- Sedrati, M., Morales, J.A., Duveau, J. et al. A Late Pleistocene hominin footprint site on the North African coast of Morocco. Sci Rep 14, 1962, 2024