Scientists have identified the oldest known Homo sapiens footprints. Found in South Africa, the tracks have been dated to over 150,000 years ago.
A wealth of fossil evidence has pinpointed humanity’s homeland as somewhere in Africa, where Homo sapiens first diverged from earlier species about 300,000 years ago.
Now, an international team of scientists has identified the oldest known set of fossil footprints from a member of our species. The team calculated the dates of seven ichnosites (locations containing ancient human traces) along South Africa’s Cape south coast, and found that they ranged between 71,000 and 153,000 years old. The latter site comfortably claims the title for world’s oldest known Homo sapiens footprints – although there are of course older examples known from other related species.
This shows that the Cape south coast was a comfortable enough place for humans to thrive for tens of thousands of years, even while their neighbours to the north had started migrating out into other regions. Other footprint evidence shows that modern humans had reached the Arabian peninsula by about 120,000 years ago, and North America around 22,000 years ago.
The team says that more ichnosites are likely still waiting to be found in the area, which could help fill in even more gaps in our understanding of our own history.