About 14,000 years ago, a party of five barefoot people – two adults, one preteen and two children – walked and even crawled through a dark passageway in a cave, according to a new study that analyzed the hand- and footprints of these individuals left behind.
Pinus ) The cave's ceiling (19459004) The cave's ceiling (19459004) The cave's ceiling was so low, that at one point, the ancient explorers were forced to crawl, leaving behind "the first evidence of human footprints left during crawling locomotion," that is, in a "crouching walk" position, said study first author Marco Romano , and a postdoctoral researcher at the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of Witwatersrand, South Africa. [In Photos: Stone Age Human Footprints Discovered]
Researchers have known about the ancient human presence in Grotta della Bassura since the 1
There were so many prints – 180 in all – that the researchers were able to piece together what happened that day during the Upper Paleolithic (also known as the late Stone Age). According to the different sizes of footprints, there are five people: a 3-year-old, 6-year-old, and pre-adolescent (8 to 11-year-old)
This group was barefoot and did not appear to be wearing any clothes (at least not that left any imprints in the cave ). After walking nearly 500 feet (150 meters) into the cave, the party arrived at the "Corridoio delle Impronte" (footprint corridor), and then fell into a single file, with the 3-year-old in the back.
" [They] walked very close to the side wall of the cave, and safer approach also used by other animals (eg, dogs and bears) when moving in a poorly lit and unknown environment, "
] Shortly thereafter, the cave roof dropped below 31 inches (80 centimeters), forcing the adventurers to crawl, "placing their hands and knees on the clay substrate," said Romano
The explorers then passed a bottleneck of stalagmites; traverse a small pond, leaving deep tracks on the waterlogged ground; climbed and a small slope beyond the "Cimitero degli Orsi" (cemetery of the bears); and finally arrived at the terminal room "Sala dei Misteri", where they stopped.
Once in that room, "the adolescent and children started collecting clay from the floor and smeared it on a stalagmite at different levels according to height, "Romano said. The group's torches left several charcoal tracks on the walls.
The motley crew shows that "very young children were active members of the upper Palaeolithic populations, even in seemingly dangerous and social activities," said Romano. piece of work, "said Matthew Bennett, a professor of environmental and geological sciences at Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom, who was not involved in the research. "It's an example of the sophistication with which we can now record prints, whether they be human or animals." [Photos: Dinosaur Tracks Reveal Australia’s ‘Jurassic Park’]
However, given that researchers already knew that ancient humans lived in the area and used the cave, finding does not add much to the scientific understanding of late Stone Age people, Bennett said. "It's a group of individuals exploring a cave, which is cool, but we knew that anyway," he told Live Science.