19 May 2024 The Future is the Product of the Past

Neanderthal Footprints Discovered On the Beach of Matalascañas (Huelva)

A stroll along the beach of Matalascanas (Huelva) in June of last year unearthed a spectacular scenario that occurred in this area more than 100,000 years ago. Winter storms and high tides exposed a 6,000-square-meter field.

The site revealed a massive amount of well-preserved fossil footprints (ichnites) of large vertebrates such as aurochs, deer, wild boar, elephants, canids, and waterfowl, among others (geese, waders, etc.). However, amid the many animal tracks, this remarkable document uncovered another significant discovery: the presence of human footprints.

The role of human ichnites is critical to understanding facets of our ancestors’ biology and behavior as there are no records of bones or teeth.

The footprints provide a glimpse into specific events of their lives that have been preserved in time. In this way, footprints provide crucial information about the number of people who made them, as well as their biological features (height, age, body mass, sex), and even biomechanics (posture, gait, speed).

However, as compared to other archaeological or palaeoanthropological sites, the number of sites with this type of footprint remains relatively scarce worldwide, especially those associated with Neanderthal hominids.

This is the case in the Iberian Peninsula, where Neanderthal bones and industrial (lithic industry) remains have been discovered in many locations. For instance, the Arrábida coast in Portugal, Málaga’s Bajondillo and Abrigo 3 caves, and Gibraltar’s Vanguard and Gorham caves.Just one badly preserved footprint has been found in Gibraltar’s Catalán Bay, but its attribution is dubious since its age (28 000 years) corresponds to a period when Neanderthals were extinct in Europe.

huelva beach
The footprints were found on on Matalascañas beach in Andalusia after storms and high tides exposed the surface where they were made (marked here as HTS), now just above the waterline of the coast. Photo: Eduardo Mayoral et al.,

The Matalascaas footprints are the first undeniable record of Neanderthal hominid footprints discovered on the Iberian Peninsula, and they are the world’s earliest, dating from the Upper Pleistocene (from 129 000 to 11 700 years ago). The footprints are more than 106 000 years old.

The analysis of the shape and proportions (morphometry) of the full footprints has enabled scientists to determine not only whether they match the characteristics of these ancient hominids’ feet, but also the group’s biological and social characteristics.

Thus, the body height corresponding to 31 of the footprints may be estimated, with 7 identified with infants, 15 with youth, and 9 with adults. The two smallest footprints age of 6 years, while 11 footprints fall anywhere between children and adolescents.

In addition, 5 footprints lead to heights between 140 and 155 cm and are correlated with teenagers. Adult Neanderthal females or small males may, however, have made them.

The footprints are spread around an NW-SE swath on the edge of what was once a flooded field, most likely seasonal, and only reaching into the water. Since the majority of them are perpendicular to the same course, the more plausible explanations would be tracking and stalking animals in the sea.

The idea that it was a staging area or part of a migratory path cannot be ruled out, but the possibility of a group bearing any sort of load is impossible to detect based on the morphology of the tracks alone.

Experiment results reveal that the overall length of the footprints varies just slightly (less than one cm on average) as people walk with or without a load.

The findings are published in Scientific Reports.

Related Articles

Archaeologists discover a 4,000-year-old stone board game in Oman

10 January 2022

10 January 2022

The joint Polish-Omani archaeology team has discovered a 4,000-year-old stone board game whilst excavating a Bronze Age and Iron Age...

2,500-Year-Old Phoenician Shipwreck Being Rescued By Spanish Archaeologists

6 July 2023

6 July 2023

A 2,500-year-old Phoenician shipwreck has been found underwater in the southeastern Spanish region of Murcia. An extraordinary Phoenician shipwreck dating...

The Iremir Mound illuminates the pre-Urartian period in East Van

27 July 2021

27 July 2021

Archaeological findings unearthed in the excavations carried out at the İremir Mound in the Gürpınar district of Van, in eastern...

Bronze Age Wedge Tomb Discovered on the Dingle Peninsula maybe Even Older

22 April 2021

22 April 2021

A wedge tomb recently discovered on the Dingle Peninsula of Ireland was described by archaeologists as “quite unusual”. Wedge tombs...

Rare discovery: Ancient Egyptian burial reveals Ovarian Teeth in Oldest Example of Teratoma

13 November 2023

13 November 2023

Archaeologists have unearthed the oldest documented example of a teratoma discovered within the 3,000-year-old burial chamber of a young woman...

In Germany, a well-preserved octagonal tower unearthed, which may have been inspired by towers on the city walls of Constantinople

5 September 2023

5 September 2023

During excavations at Neuenburg Castle near the town of Freyburg (Burgenlandkreis) in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt, the extraordinarily well-preserved,...

Unique Viking Age sword found in Norway

14 June 2022

14 June 2022

A piece of a sword was found last year on a farm in Gausel, in Stavanger, on Norway‘s west coast,...

Two new fragments of the Fasti Ostienses, a kind of chronicle engraved on marble slabs, have been found in the Ostia Antica Archaeological Park

19 August 2023

19 August 2023

Two new fragments of the Fasti Ostienses have been discovered in the Ostia Antica Archaeological Park, following investigations carried out...

An Interesting Ottoman Tradition Resembling Christmas tree: “NAHIL” OR WISHING TREE

28 December 2022

28 December 2022

Nahıl, a word of Arabic origin, means date palm. This word was later used by the people to mean the...

An olive workshop dating back to the 6th century was found in the ancient city of Dara

16 February 2022

16 February 2022

An olive workshop dating back to the 6th century was unearthed in the ancient city of Dara, one of the...

Archaeologists uncover intact 16th-century quayside in the Belgium town of Leper

24 March 2022

24 March 2022

Excavations at Leper (Ypres), located in the West Flanders province of Belgium, have uncovered a 16th-century quayside. The find was...

The 1,800-year-old ‘Iron Legion’ Roman Legionary Base uncovered at the foot of Tel Megiddo

14 February 2024

14 February 2024

The Israel Antiquities Authority (IAA) announced that a recent excavation at the foot of Tel Megiddo, near the ancient village...

800-year-old Jin dynasty palace complex found in Beijing Olympic Village

9 February 2022

9 February 2022

While building the athletes’ Olympic Village for this year’s Winter Games in Beijing, China found the remains of an ancient...

New suspect in greatest act of vandalism in the history of dinosaur study

29 May 2023

29 May 2023

Researchers from the University of Bristol are rewriting the history of paleontology’s darkest and most bizarre event. Vandals with sledgehammers...

Underneath an Illegal Excavation House, a Subterranean City Is Revealed!

25 June 2021

25 June 2021

Upon the information that illegal excavations were carried out in a house in the İscehisar district of Afyonkarahisar in western...