Researchers have discovered an array of fossilized footprints in an ancient sand dune in Gibraltar, the small British territory on the southwestern tip of the Iberian Peninsula. One of the prints, they suggest, may have been made by a Neandertal.
If they are right, the find is highly significant: Only one other Neandertal track site is known, a set of 62,000-year-old footprints from Romania. And the Gibraltar print is reportedly much younger, in which case it could have been made by one of the last Neandertals ever to walk the Earth. But other experts are not so sure about that interpretation.
“Foot proportions [of H. sapiens and Neandertals] are more or less the same, making it really difficult to tell from the contour of a footprint whether a modern human or Neandertal walked on those sandy dunes 28,000 years ago,” notes Jeremy DeSilva of Dartmouth College, an expert on fossil human feet.
All told, “I would be very skeptical of [the 28,000-year-ago date] lending support to a Neanderthal identification in this case,” [archaeologist Thomas] Higham says.
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