We have a special place for footprints: Grauman’s Chinese Theater has recent celebrities’, Astaire studios have various dance steps on their floor for instructional purposes, the footprint in stone of the ancient king at Dal Riada in Scotland (in which my wife’s foot fitted exactly), and so on. We have uncovered fossilized Homo footprints from long ago, including some in Kenya dated at 1.5 million years ago and another recent find in the UK dated at 850,000 years ago. And then we have the footprints discussed in the 7/11/15 edition of Science News (a fabulous edition with more blogs to come) found in France’s Tuc d’Audobert Cave. Paleontologists brought in modern trackers from a tribe in Africa where everyone learns to track animals and to identify footprints of family and friends. Pretty smart, eh? Both the tribesmen and the scientists who brought them in to use their skills. The trackers identified footprints from some ancients carrying something heavy and then those same ancients walking back to the the place where clay was dug to make bison sculptures. The dug out hole matched the amount of clay needed for the sculptures. The trackers were able to speculate knowledgeably about who these individuals were, e.g., sex and age. Some paleontologists not associated with this effort expressed caution, saying people were different back then, but we are talking about only roughly 15,000 years ago and about prints easily identified as Homo, so I do not understand their hesitancy to accept that these findings have some validity (except as some academic prissiness). It is a good read if you can find it.
BUT what really caught my eye was this: Some of the prehistoric prints come from heel walking, i.e., walking only on the heels which leaves less individually identifiable information than regular walking. Paleontologists have hypothesized that these heel prints came from some ritual dancers, but the African trackers disagreed. They said that for them, heel walking is a way of leaving no identifiable tracks, which would suggest that whoever left these tracks wanted to remain anonymous.
WOW! One of my more imaginative speculations about why some prehistoric drawings were done so very deeply in caves is that the artists wanted to escape detection and censure from the authorities, i.e., art was frowned upon the chief or shaman (see post on ancient art of 6/17/15). Maybe the sculptors here faced those very same issues. Intriguing about our nature, I think. Art is sometimes still a little edgy. Travel on darkly.