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Scientists discover 90,000-year-old human footprints, among oldest ever found

Archaeologist Anass Sedrati examines a set of ancient footprints, believed to have been left by anatomically modern humans (Homo Sapiens) and to be dating to more than 100,000 years ago, discovered along the coast in the Larache region, about 90 kilometres (55 miles) south of Tangier, in northern Morocco on February 5, 2024. Archaeologists in Morocco have unearthed more than 80 human footprints dating back around 100,000 years and believed to be the oldest in North Africa. The footprints, probably left by five homo sapiens, including children, were discovered on the coast of Larache by archaeologists from Morocco, Spain, France, and Germany. (Photo by FADEL SENNA / AFP) (Photo by FADEL SENNA/AFP via Getty Images) MOROCCO-HISTORY-ARCHAEOLOGY

Two trails of ancient human footprints left by humans trekking across a Moroccan beach 90,000 years ago were discovered intact by archaeologists, who say they represent some of the oldest human prints ever uncovered.

Researchers discovered 85 human footprints stamped into the sand while studying boulders near the northern tip of North Africa in 2022, according to a study published in Scientific Reports this January.

The well-preserved fossilized prints, the only known human trackway site of its kind in North Africa and the Southern Mediterranean, were left by a group of at least five early modern humans.

They are also the oldest footprints attributed to humans to ever be found in the region, scientists wrote in the paper.

“Between tides, I said to my team that we should go north to explore another beach,” study lead author Mouncef Sedrati told Live Science. “We were surprised to find the first print. At first, we weren’t convinced it was a footprint, but then we found more of the trackway.”

Scientists determined that the group — made up of children, adolescents and adults — had walked on the beach roughly 90,000 years ago during the Late Pleistocene, also known as the Ice Age.

“We took measurements on-site to determine the length and depth of the prints,” Sedrati said. “Based on the foot pressure and size of the footprints, we were able to determine the approximate age of the individuals, which included children, adolescents and adults.”

The researchers believe the footprints held up over many millennia at least in part because of the beach’s layout, because they are located in a spot where a boulder partially protects them from the long reach of the tides.

“The exceptional thing is the position of the beach on a rocky platform that is covered in clay sediments,” Sedrati said. “These sediments create good conditions to preserve the tracks on the sandbar while the tides rapidly buried the beach. That’s why the footprints are so well preserved here.”

While the researchers are unsure what the group was doing on the beach, they note in their study as hunter-gathers, they were likely searching for resources.

According to Sedrati, the researchers will have to act quickly to try and uncover what they were doing on the beach, as the rocky shore platform has started to collapse.

“We hope to learn about the total history of this group of humans and what they were doing there,” Sedrati said.


“We hope to learn about the total history of this group of humans and what they were doing there,” Sedrati said.

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