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Follow the Footsteps

Footprints are a kind of evidence of behavior often called a 'trace fossil' - geological evidence of biological activity. This is in contrast to 'body fossils', fossilized remains from organisms' bodies.

Scientists can learn a lot from sites where human footprints have been found, including:

  • Estimates of height, weight, and gait of the humans who made the footprints - which also tells us how many people made the footprints.
  • Features of the substrate that the footprints were formed in (was it soft? hard? wet? dry?).
  • Aspects of the environment that the humans who made the footprints were living in, especially if there are footprints left by other animals.

Several human footprints sites have been discovered; you can explore the evidence from some of them here.

image of Australopithecus afarensis walking and leaving footprints

Laetoli Footprint Trails

The Laetoli footprints were most likely made by Australopithecus afarensis, an early human whose fossils were found in the same sediment layer. The entire footprint trail is almost 27 m (88 ft) long and includes impressions of about 70 early human footprints.

Page last updated: February 8, 2016