20,000 Year Old Footprint Belonged To One Legged Man

Source: National Geographic

Sometimes archaeologists are able to make determinations about prehistoric life that stun and amaze everyday people. What can be determined from a bit of dirt or a tiny fossil is truly astounding, and research into footprints found in Australia is no exception.

National Parks are National Treasures

National parks all around the world have long been used for archaeological and geographical research. Many of them were designated national parks because of their significance to the country in one way, shape or form.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/yeowatzup

This protected status means that scientists are able to take a closer look at things that may have otherwise been lost to modernization or development. Mungo National Park in Australia is one such area, which has revealed some fascinating things about ancient hunter gathers in the area.

Australia as a Wetland

The area of New South Wales was a wetland, once upon a time. A funny thing to consider, when one thinks about how famously hot and dry Australia is. Jokes about the outback are plenty, and none of them lean into the idea that Australia was once a lean and lush island.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Photograph by Longhair

The wetland is now dried out, and Mungo National Park has been studied for archaeological evidence since 2003. It was then that the first fossilized footsteps of ancient Aboriginal peoples were discovered, when they were first spotted between some sand dunes.

Hundreds of Fossilized Footprints Left Behind

In the years since, scientists have found at least 700 fossilized footprints. 400 of them are grouped in a set of 23 tracks, which has created an area rich for study by archaeologists and geologists alike.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Art Gallery of South Australia

What is significant about this area is not the sheer number of footprints that have withstood the test of time, though that is a notable detail. No, the surprising factor is the quality of the archaeological findings. Each footstep is crisp and clear, and reveals a significant amount about the person or persons who left behind the imprint.

Determining the Age of the Foot Owner

Each footstep, in size and length of stride, reveals the age and way that each person walked who left the footprint. Scientists have been able to determine who was walking slowly and who was walking quickly, and which way they were ultimately headed. It’s an unusual find, to have evidence from thousands of years ago that is so revealing.

Source: Australian Museum/Stuart Humphreys

The tracks were determined to belong to several Aboriginal groups that formerly crossed the wetlands. These groups included a one-legged man, who scientists were able to determine only had one leg due to the mystery of a set of only-right footprints.

The Fastest Man On Record?

And, scientists have determined that one of the men who belonged to one of these groups may have, in fact, still hold the record for the world’s fastest runner, even 20,000 years after he initially left his footprint.

Source: Youtube/Australian Museum

Steve Webb, a biological archaeologist, explained to National Geographic that the team had determined that one particular set of footprints was left by a man who was running at a speed of 37 kilometers per hour, which is as fast as many Olympic sprinters.

Challenging the Modern World Record

The current record for the fastest man alive was set by Olympic runner Usain Bolt, who completed the 100 meters in 9.58 seconds. This is a speed of 37.6 kilometers per hour, only a little faster than the prints that were found in Australia.

Source: Freepik jcomp

Of course, the footprints left in Australia are more remarkable for the fact that the prints were left in mud. While Usain Bolt’s record is nothing to sniff at, of course, he was being tested on solid ground, on a track. Running through sand or mud is significantly harder, making this ancient Aboriginal man’s achievement much more impressive.

Hunter-Gatherer Societies Required Fitness

The reason behind the man running could have been one of many. In those days, societies were largely hunter-gatherer based, and required at least a modicum of fitness in order to survive. Groups were constantly on the move in order to follow the food, and if you weren’t fit enough to travel, then you didn’t survive.

Source: Australian Geographic/Michael Amendolia

So it’s entirely possible that the ancient man was chasing after a deer, or some other animal that he was attempting to hunt. It’s possible that he was running from a member of an opposing tribe who was attacking. It’s possible he simply liked to run, to see how fast it was that he could go. While we can determine what kind of person left the print and how fast they were going, it’s impossible to tell why.

Revealing Unusual Aspects of Ancient Cultures

Evidence such as the footprints in Australia reveal fascinating aspects of ancient cultures that many people don’t consider. It’s easy to think about the food that people ate, or the structures that they built in order to protect themselves from the elements.

Source: Wikimedia Commons/Robyn Bradbrook

When considering factors as minute as the speed that they could run, though, we begin to see an entirely different side of ancient life. While the superfast Aboriginal runner may have been a fluke, it’s also possible that he was an extraordinary member of an ancient race of humans, whose literal footprints have been left as a mark on the earth until today.

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James Cross

Written by James Cross

James Cross, an enigmatic writer from the historic city of Boston. James' writing delves into mysteries, true crime, and the unexplained, crafting compelling narratives that keep readers and viewers on the edge of their seats. His viral articles, blog posts, and documentary-style videos explore real-life enigmas and unsolved cases, inviting audiences to join the quest for answers. James' ability to turn real mysteries into shareable content has made him a sensation in the world of storytelling.

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