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Footprints Mark a Toddler’s Perilous Prehistoric Journey

作者:admin 2020-10-25

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ImageFootprints Mark a Toddler’s Perilous Prehistoric Journey

Most of the human footprints were made by a barefoot adolescent of either sex, or a young adult female with roughly size 6 feet, the team determined. But about every 100 yards or so, a few much smaller human prints suddenly appear within the northbound set of tracks.

“We have many adult tracks, and then every now and again we have these tiny baby tracks,” Dr. Reynolds said.

A toddler-aged child was being carried and periodically placed on the muddy ground as the caregiver readjusted his or her human load, the researchers surmised, based on the three-dimensional digital models they had assembled. There are no toddler footprints within the southbound set of tracks, so the child probably wasn’t carried on that journey.

It’s likely that the child rode on the young person’s left hip. There’s a slight asymmetry between the left and right tracks on the northbound set of tracks. That’s consistent with someone carrying extra weight on that side, Dr. Reynolds said.

She and her collaborators estimated that the young person was moving at just shy of four miles per hour. That’s a good clip: “Imagine running for a bus,” Dr. Reynolds said. “It’s not a stroll.”

The urgency of the journey might have had something to do with the toddler, Dr. Reynolds suggests. “Why else would you travel so fast but encumber yourself with a child?”

Credit...National Park Service, via Associated Press

There was another reason, however, for making haste over the landscape — the presence of large and potentially dangerous animals. Both a giant sloth and a mammoth ambled across the humans’ path, the trackway reveals. Their prints appear on top of the northbound footsteps but below the southbound ones, meaning that the animals walked by sometime in between the humans’ passage.

The mammoth — most likely a bull, based on the size of its tracks — was apparently uninterested in the humans who had walked by just hours before; its tracks do not indicate any reaction. The giant sloth, on the other hand, stopped and shuffled in a circle when it encountered the human trackway, its prints indicate. The sloth’s response suggests that humans had positioned themselves at the top of the food chain, Dr. Reynolds said.

In the future, Dr. Reynolds and her colleagues hope to better understand the people that inhabited this region. For instance, it’s an open question whether they had migrated seasonally or stayed put in one area throughout the year, Dr. Reynolds said. “We’re trying to assemble these little snapshots of what life was like in the past.”

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