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Neanderthalers left thousands of footprints on the beach!

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Neanderthalers left thousands of footprints on the beach!

A fossilized footprint in sand made by a Neanderthaler

Wait. This isn’t anything like the common images of footsteps in sand. Your watching footprints of a group of Neanderthaler children. And the prints have stories to tell. 

A group of 10 to 13 individuals, aged from 2 and up,  spent some time at the beach in Le Rozel, northern France. Wind-driven sand quickly covered their many footprints, left in mud, preserving them for an amateur archaeologist to find them some 80 000 years later.

It was mostly children and adolescents on the beach that day long ago. A few very tall adults, up to 190 cm / 6′ 3″ in height were with them.  The size of the footprints says it all and confirms that Neandertalers socialized in groups.  Other questions remain. Why so many children and only a few adults? Did the Neanderthals die young? Were the adults away somewhere? Or did Neandertaler children also just liked to play on the beach?

The team behind the discovery says that there’s not much known about Neandertal social life. It’s difficult laying the puzzle from bones and archaeological findings. But these footsteps gives a snapshot.  “It’s difficult to figure out why those individuals were there at that particular time: were they looking for food or playing or doing something else?” one in the excavation team says and continues “I would expect either more adults or more of a balance between the number of adults and young people.”

“We have reached more than 1500 footprints and the work will continue during the summer of 2020. We expect more footprints during the summer of 2020.” Dominique Cliquehe says when I connect to ask about the number of footprints so far. The discovery is the largest of its kind. Before this, there were only nine known Neanderthal footprints, from 4 different sites, in Greece, Romania, Gibraltar and France.

Excavation of footprings from sand dunes
Photo by Dominique Clique

How can the scientists be sure that it’s Neandertals footprints? Well, they say that today’s humans, Homo Sapiens, came to the area 35 000 years later. No-one knows of another sort of humans living in the area at the time. 

I’m amazed that footprints can prevail for this long AND that people today can recognise them as such! Posting images of footprints in the sand might be corny (I’m guilty of doing it) but this one deserves to be in the spotlight!

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