To walk in the footsteps of Stone Age fishermen will require a trip to the island of Lolland in Denmark, where two sets of human tracks were recently discovered near the banks of the Baltic Sea. The footprints were roughly 5,000 years old and marked the location of an ancient fishing site, researchers from the Museum Lolland-Falster announced earlier this month.
The imprints are hardly the oldest human footprints ever uncovered, but archaeologists described them as being different from anything encountered in Denmark before. "This is really quite extraordinary, finding footprints from humans," Terje Stafseth, an archaeologist with the museum who studied the footprints, said in a statement. "Normally, what we find is their rubbish in the form of tools and pottery, but here, we suddenly have a completely different type of trace from the past.”
The Stone Age footprints, one set larger than the other, were unearthed in the sediment of a dried-up fjord, or inlet. The inlets were carved tens of thousands of years ago by glacial erosion and would become flooded during high tide. They were a big part of Stone Age people’s daily lives and were frequently used for fishing and making sacrifices to the sea, according to Live Science.
Archaeologists believe the two sets of prints were left when fishermen were tending to their weirs, a system of fences designed to trap fish swimming in the shallow waters of the fjord. Scientists discovered traces of Stone Age fishing equipment alongside the footprints. "What seems to have happened was that at some point they were moving out to the [fish fence], perhaps to recover it before a storm," Lars Ewald Jensen, also with the museum, told Live Science. "At one of the posts, there are footprints on each side of the post, where someone had been trying to remove it from the sea bottom."
The skulls of domestic and wild animals were also found on the beach near the fjord and were probably part of ancient rituals that took place there.
The oldest known evidence of bipedalism is a set of footprints found at a site in Tanzania in the mid-20th century. The footprints, preserved in volcanic ash, dated to roughly 3.7 million years ago and were thought to have been made by an individual of the hominin species, according to a study published in Nature.
In February, archaeologists uncovered what are believed to be the oldest footprints outside of Africa in Norfolk, England. Scientists believed the footprints were left more than 800,000 years ago and belonged to five ancient humans. One was equivalent in size to a modern size 8 shoe.