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Fossilised footprints discovered in Tanzania suggest women foraged together

Women were left find dinner 19,000 years ago! Fossilized footprints in Tanzania show labour was divided between the sexes in ancient human communities

  • Researchers studied 408 human footprints found at Engare Sero in Tanzania
  • One set of footprints appeared to show a group of women out foraging for food
  • Its the largest human set of footprints from the African fossil record discovered  

Ancient footprints found in Tanzania suggest that women were responsible for foraging for food and did so together in groups as early as 19,000 years ago. 

The find is the largest collection of footprints from the human fossil record ever found in Africa, according to the team from Chatham University.

Researchers discovered 408 human footprints at Engare Sero in Tanzania after the site was found by a member of the nearby Maasai community. 

One group of 17 footprints were made by 14 women, two adult men and a younger boy, according to the team, who say the women were foraging for food. 

Ancient footprints found in Tanzania suggest that women were responsible for foraging for food and did so together in groups as early as 19,000 years ago

Researchers discovered 408 human footprints at Engare Sero in Tanzania after the site was found by a member of the nearby Maasai community

Researchers discovered 408 human footprints at Engare Sero in Tanzania after the site was found by a member of the nearby Maasai community

The researchers couldn’t say what the men and boy were doing but suspect they were either providing protection or just ‘walking along with the women for a bit’.

The team dated the footprints to between 19,100 and 5,760 years old – this would put them during the late Pleistocene period.

Based on their size, the distances between them and their orientations, the team suggest that 17 tracks of footprints were created by a group of individuals moving together at walking speed in a southwesterly direction.

Kevin Hatala, corresponding author on the study, said the behaviour demonstrated by the women and men is similar to the way modern hunter-gatherer tribes such as the Ache and Hadza operate today.  

‘The findings may indicate a division of labour based on sex in ancient human communities,’ said Dr Hatala.

The find is the largest collection of footprints from the human fossil record ever found in Africa, according to the team from Chatham University.

The find is the largest collection of footprints from the human fossil record ever found in Africa, according to the team from Chatham University.

While they couldn’t say exactly what work men at the time did, it was possible they took on a higher proportion of hunting jobs – with women doing the foraging. 

For an additional six tracks of footprints oriented to the northeast, the research team estimate a broader range of variation in speed, which may suggest that they were not created by a single group travelling together. 

‘The findings provide a snapshot of the movements and group behaviour of modern humans living in east Africa during the Late Pleistocene period,’ Dr Hatala said.  

Dr Hatala and his team say their findings provide a ‘tantalising snapshot’ of humankind’s earliest days and give some insight into ancient society. 

Based on their size, the distances between them and their orientations, the team suggest that 17 tracks of footprints were created by a group of individuals moving together at walking speed in a southwesterly direction

Based on their size, the distances between them and their orientations, the team suggest that 17 tracks of footprints were created by a group of individuals moving together at walking speed in a southwesterly direction 

Kevin Hatala, corresponding author on the study, said the behaviour demonstrated by the women and men is similar to the way modern hunter-gatherer tribes such as the Ache and Hadza (pictured) operate today

Kevin Hatala, corresponding author on the study, said the behaviour demonstrated by the women and men is similar to the way modern hunter-gatherer tribes such as the Ache and Hadza (pictured) operate today

The team wrote in the paper: ‘In the context of modern ethnographic data, we suggest that these trackways may capture a unique snapshot of cooperative and sexually divided foraging behaviour in Late Pleistocene humans.

‘The Engare Sero footprint assemblage provides a tantalising snapshot of the movements of a group of modern humans living in East Africa in the Late Pleistocene.’

They said the trace fossils found give a window into the anatomy, walking ability and group behaviour of the people living at the time.  

‘They provide evidence of body sizes from a region and area where skeletal fossil data are scarce, and they preserve direct evidence of both walking and running behaviours.’

They added: ‘Such insights cannot be gleaned from most other forms of fossil data.’

The findings were published in the journal Scientific Reports.

Researchers are able to work out what our earliest ancestors had for dinner through modelling and studying bones

Researchers recently concluded that people living in southern Scandinavia during the Stone Age were more reliant on fish than was previously believed.

They reached this conclusion by studying the bones of 82 individuals who lived thousands of years ago.

The researchers employed Bayesian statistical modeling to learn about human diets following the melting of ice from the last ice age.

In addition to looking at human bones the scientists examined animal bone material in order to ‘gain an insight into how diets vary between different places’, the study said.

The report states that fish were essential for people living in territories both coastal and inland.

The analysis explains: ‘The results show that the water’s resources dominated protein intake in both marine and fresh water environments.

‘The results also show there are considerable local variations in the preferred species but that fishing has been highly significant for human subsistence, and the significance of fishing appears to constantly increase.’ 



Read more at DailyMail.co.uk


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