Prehistoric footprints offer snapshot of how our ancestors divided labor between men and women

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
kyqceb k jc fmlzmib woxzl
This beautifully preserved print includes mud splashed up along the sides. Credit: William Harcourt-Smith

Prehistoric footprints are a remarkable and precious source of evidence for the behavior and biology of ancient organisms, capturing a snapshot of their lives in deep time. In a new paper in Nature Scientific Reports, our research team documented and interpreted an extraordinary site in northern Tanzania called Engare Sero, where hundreds of human footprints were preserved in volcanic ash many thousands of years ago.

Based on a sophisticated statistical analysis using a vast comparative data set of modern foot dimensions, this group likely consisted of mainly 14 adult females, with two adult males and one younger male.

Modern foragers such as the Hadza in Tanzania and the Ache in Paraguay often include groups of adult females cooperatively gathering food together, with occasional visits from or accompaniment by adult males. This scenario seems a plausible fit for the group structure and patterns of movements we inferred at Engare Sero. The footprints may indicate cooperative and sexually divided foraging in this ancient human community.

Related article:  ‘Future foods’: How kelp, maggots, fungus and other nutrients grown outside of the traditional agriculture system can help fight climate change

While we don’t know what the community of people who made these prints was specifically like, we know that hominins in Africa at this time were engaging in complex behaviors, and that they were members of our own species, Homo sapiens.

Read the original post

Outbreak Featured
Infographic: Growing human embryos — How long should researchers watch human development play out in a dish?

Infographic: Growing human embryos — How long should researchers watch human development play out in a dish?

In May, the International Society for Stem Cell Research (ISSCR) released new guidelines that relaxed the 14-day rule, taking away ...
Are GMOs and pesticides threatening bees?

Are GMOs and pesticides threatening bees?

First introduced in 1995, neonicotinoids ...
glp menu logo outlined

Newsletter Subscription

* indicates required
Email Lists
glp menu logo outlined

Get news on human & agricultural genetics and biotechnology delivered to your inbox.