Neanderthals’ footprints are discovered on a Spanish beach left by a child

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Footprints discovered in the sand on a Spanish beach were left by a Neanderthal child 100,000 years ago “ jumping irregularly as if they were dancing, ” research shows.

The prints were uncovered due to stormy weather and high tide in June 2020, where they were spotted by a pair of biologists walking on the sand.

They stumbled upon what was later revealed to be a Neanderthal watering hole, dating back 100,000 years to the late Pleistocene.

The site, on the beach at Matalascanas in Spain, is located between Huelva and Cadiz, and is where the ancestors of modern humans drank, hunted, searched for seafood and even let their children play in the water alongside animals.

Paleontologists from the University of Huelva say this is the earliest known example of Neanderthal footprints in the Iberian Peninsula.

Footprints discovered in the sand on a Spanish beach were left by a Neanderthal child 100,000 years ago “ jumping irregularly as if they were dancing, ” research shows.

They stumbled upon what was later revealed to be a Neanderthal watering hole, dating back 100,000 years to the late Pleistocene.

They stumbled upon what was later revealed to be a Neanderthal watering hole, dating back 100,000 years to the late Pleistocene.

They stumbled upon what was later revealed to be a Neanderthal watering hole, dating back 100,000 years to the late Pleistocene.

This image shows a close-up of the sand where the ancient Neanderthals once stood

This image shows a close-up of the sand where the ancient Neanderthals once stood

This image shows a close-up of the sand where the ancient Neanderthals once stood

A FAMILY GROUP NEANDERTHALEN BY THE SEA

Researchers believe the site was a regular watering hole for Neanderthal communities in Spain.

The group consisted of a mix of adults and youth, including at least seven small children.

Another 15 were from adolescents and nine abandoned by adults – the smallest two belonged to a six-year-old.

Most were very close to the shoreline, suggesting they were looking for shellfish or other food sources.

There was also evidence that a small child ‘jumped’ in a way that might suggest dancing in the sand.

At least 87 footprints were found at the site, including evidence of a Neanderthal child jumping and possibly even dancing through the sand.

According to study author Eduardo Mayoral, they were discovered in a place that was slowly coming to light as a result of an eroding sand dune.

He says it may be more difficult to track early Neanderthals because there are often no bones left or analyzed so far, so they rely on footprints and other “ fossil data. ”

“The biological and ethological information of the ancient human groups when there are no bone remains is provided by the study of their fossil footprints, which show us certain ‘frozen’ moments of their existence,” he explained.

They viewed the footprints through 3D models and performed detailed sedimentary analyzes to characterize them and the environment in which they were found.

The footprints had a rounded heel, a longitudinal arch, relatively short toes, and a non-opposable big toe, the team found.

“They represent the oldest record of Neanderthal footprints in the upper Pleistocene in the world,” Mayoral added.

Of the 87 footprints, 37 were complete enough to represent the size of the Neanderthal foot, from 12.5 cm to 28.5 cm long.

Located on Matalascanas Beach in Spain, the site is located between Huelva and Cadiz, and is where the ancestors of modern man drank, hunted, searched for seafood and even let their children play in the water alongside animals

Located on Matalascanas Beach in Spain, the site is located between Huelva and Cadiz, and is where the ancestors of modern man drank, hunted, searched for seafood and even let their children play in the water alongside animals

Located on Matalascanas Beach in Spain, the site is located between Huelva and Cadiz, and is where the ancestors of modern man drank, hunted, searched for seafood and even let their children play in the water alongside animals

Of the 87 footprints, 37 were complete enough to represent the size of the Neanderthal foot, from 5 inches to 11 inches long

Of the 87 footprints, 37 were complete enough to represent the size of the Neanderthal foot, from 5 inches to 11 inches long

Of the 87 footprints, 37 were complete enough to represent the size of the Neanderthal foot, from 5 inches to 11 inches long

This allowed the team to calculate that the people at the ‘watering hole’ were between 9 and 1 meter tall, and the majority between 1 and 1 meter.

“The wide range of footprint sizes suggests the existence of a social group integrated by individuals of different age classes, but dominated, however, by non-adult individuals,” Mayoral said.

Of the footprints, seven were from children, 15 from adolescents and nine from adults – with the smallest two being a six-year-old.

The longest four footprints were of someone over six feet, which Mayoral says is significantly higher than the expected maximum height of a Neanderthal, so may have been inaccurate or may have been taken by a smaller person with more movement.

This shows areas where people and animals would have once stood, the MTS area is the Matalascañas Trampled Area, the name of the beach, and HTS is the Hominin Trampled Surface, revealed after storms and where the Neanderthal once walked

This shows areas where people and animals would have once stood, the MTS area is the Matalascañas Trampled Area, the name of the beach, and HTS is the Hominin Trampled Surface, revealed after storms and where the Neanderthal once walked

This shows areas where people and animals would have once stood, the MTS area is the Matalascañas Trampled Area, the name of the beach, and HTS is the Hominin Trampled Surface, revealed after storms and where the Neanderthal once walked

The footprints had a rounded heel, a longitudinal arch, relatively short toes, and a non-opposable big toe, the team found.

The footprints had a rounded heel, a longitudinal arch, relatively short toes, and a non-opposable big toe, the team found.

The footprints had a rounded heel, a longitudinal arch, relatively short toes, and a non-opposable big toe, the team found.

There was a microbial mat, suggesting an area of ​​life once underwater, as seen in this close-up showing halite fungus remains, possibly linked to salt water

There was a microbial mat, suggesting an area of ​​life once underwater, as seen in this close-up showing halite fungus remains, possibly linked to salt water

There was a microbial mat, suggesting an area of ​​life once underwater, as seen in this close-up showing halite fungus remains, possibly linked to salt water

“The wide range of footprint sizes suggests the existence of a social group integrated by individuals of different age classes, but dominated, however, by non-adult individuals,” Mayoral said.

He said they were able to better understand the behavior of the Neanderthal group by studying the positioning of the footprints.

“Neanderthals are hunter-gatherers, so the reasons for their presence are mainly due to travel, resource transportation or foraging strategies,” Mayoral added.

Almost a quarter of the group was made up of children, with most of the footprints on the edge of what would once have been the watering hole itself.

“This could be a hunting strategy, stalking animals in the water, probably waterfowl and waders or small carnivores, or even fish or shellfish looking for fish or mollusks,” he said.

The findings are published in the journal Scientific reports

Neanderthals, a close relative of modern humans, became extinct 40,000 years ago

The Neanderthals were a close human ancestor who mysteriously died out about 40,000 years ago.

The species lived in Africa with early humans for millennia before migrating to Europe about 300,000 years ago.

They were later joined by humans, who entered Eurasia about 48,000 years ago.

The Neanderthals were a cousin of humans, but not a direct ancestor - the two species are separate from a common ancestor - who perished about 50,000 years ago.  Depicted is an exhibition of a Neanderthal museum

The Neanderthals were a cousin of humans, but not a direct ancestor - the two species are separate from a common ancestor - who perished about 50,000 years ago.  Depicted is an exhibition of a Neanderthal museum

The Neanderthals were a cousin of humans, but not a direct ancestor – the two species are separate from a common ancestor – who perished about 50,000 years ago. Depicted is an exhibition of a Neanderthal museum

These were the original ‘cavemen’, historically thought to be stupid and brazen in comparison to modern humans.

In recent years, and especially in the past decade, it has become increasingly clear that we are Neanderthals short.

A growing body of evidence points to a more sophisticated and multi-talented kind of “caveman” than anyone thought possible.

It now seems likely that Neanderthals had told them, buried their dead, painted them and even interbred with humans.

They used body art such as pigments and beads, and they were the very first artists, with Neanderthal cave art (and symbolism) in Spain apparently some 20,000 years older than the earliest modern human art.

They are said to have hunted and fished on land. However, they became extinct about 40,000 years ago after the success of Homo sapiens in Europe.