What if human history as we know it changed? Lately this question is becoming more and more frequent for many reasons: archaeological and scientific discoveries seem to reveal things that seemed impossible. The latest discovery, in chronological order, concerns hominid footprints that they would be as much as 200,000 years older than previously thought.
What does this mean, specifically? That the Pre-Neanderthal they would even date back to the middle Pleistocene (about 295,800 years ago). And that our evolution could be much, much longer and more complex than previously thought.
The discovery of the footprints and the record in Europe
The discovery in question was made by a team from the University of Seville, led by radioisotope researcher and technician GRS Jorge Rivera. The team analyzed a set of hominid footprints in June 2020 in the El Asperillo area of Matalascañas, Spain, which on paper dated to about 106,000 years ago. However, some experts, during the survey, had already suspected that they were older than that, which is why Rivera’s team got involved.
Scientists have therefore applied a optically stimulated luminescence technique, carrying out multiple analyzes and taking advantage of the most advanced tools in the laboratories of the Center for Research, Technology and Innovation of the University of Seville. The results of all the analyzes conducted were extraordinary: the footprints are, as we have already mentioned, 200,000 years older than previously thought. Their “age” would therefore be 295,800 years old, which makes them the oldest in Europe: a true record.
The impact of record footprints in history
But what does it mean, then, for the story? In essence, that the pre-Neanderthals would have lived in the Spanish area under analysis during the middle Pleistocene, changing the chronology of their movements and their adaptation capacities in an impactful way. In fact, geographically, the discovery shows that the human settlements (which until now was believed to be prevalent on the coast of the Gulf of Cadiz), have gone even further, with settlements in areas with more temperate climates and abundant vegetation.
Furthermore, based on the analysis of the footprints, it can be deduced that in the period of settlement of the pre-Neanderthals in the area of El Asperillo in Matalascañas, the sea level would have been around 60 meters below the current level: this implies that the coast would be more than 20 kilometers from where it is today, therefore we can assume the ancient presence of a large coastal plain, with large areas subject to flooding, in which many human beings would have settled.CopyAMP code.
The new dating of the footprints (and consequently of the site where they were found) also concerns the vertebrate animals who lived there. In fact, the hominid tracks also included the footprints of large mammals such as straight-tusked elephants, gigantic bulls and wild boars, suggesting that these were the fauna that inhabited (and dominated) the area nearly 300,000 years ago.
The next analysis on the footprints
The area of El Asperillo in Matalascañan includes more than 300 footprints of which 10% are considered well preserved. Based on what has been discovered, there are no indicated hominid footprints in Europe (and there are very few in the rest of the world) in the Middle Pleistocene time band, for this reason until recently it was doubted that they belonged to the pre-Neanderthals.
Still today, however, experts underline the singularity of the discovery of the site, whose new dating challenges existing paradigms and discoveries. In fact, many have requested further, more in-depth analyses, in order to be able to understand even more about the matter.