Thursday, March 13, 2003

ABC -- Ancient Footprints Found at Italian Volcano

As the ancient trekkers clambered down the volcano's side — perhaps fleeing from a hot lava flow — the cooled, but still soft lava surface recorded their footsteps and then hardened. A short time later, the volcano erupted again, blanketing the footprints with a thick layer of ash that preserved them for more than 300,000 years.

Paolo Mietto, a paleontologist at the University of Padova in Italy, concluded in this week's issue of Nature that they belonged to short-statured hominids "who had fully bipedal, free-standing gaits."

The footprints are about 20 centimeters (8 inches) in length — or about a woman's size 4 — and very broad. Extrapolations based on contemporary human models suggest the adults were no more than 4 and a half feet tall.

Although it isn't clear exactly which species of early man left the prints on the one-mile-square patch of the volcano, the researchers suggest it was either Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis — two early human species found in Europe during the Paleolithic era.

Or hobbits fleeing Morder? Were they hairy feet?

No comments: