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Peace Region palaeontologists lead researchers in cataloguing new Hominid trackway in South Africa

A natural cast track showing four toes and a 10 cm bar for scale. Photo by Dr. Charles Helm
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TUMBLER RIDGE, B.C. — Two Peace Region-based palaeontologists have made important scientific discoveries on dinosaurs in the past, but this time Drs. Charles Helm and Richard McCrea were researching creatures that lived much more recently.

An international team of researchers led by Dr. Helm has published an article today in the open-access journal Scientific Reports which draws attention to a Late Pleistocene hominid trackway site that was identified two years ago on the south coast of South Africa. Up to forty hominid tracks were found on the ceiling and side walls of a ten-metre long cave. The tracks are thought to have been made approximately 90,000 years ago when the nearby shoreline would have been about 2 kilometres away.

The researchers say that a number of creatures, probably Homo sapiens, made the tracks while moving down a dune surface. This is the first reported hominid tracksite in the world from this time period and adds to the sparse global record of early hominid tracks. The trackway site also represents the largest and best-preserved archive of Late Pleistocene hominid tracks found to date.

The narrow confines of the cave, often with a space of 50 cm or less between floor and ceiling, made for significant challenges in the documentation. However, thousands of photographs of the track-bearing surface were taken. Dr. McCrea then used the photographs to develop 3D photogrammetric models of the trackway. Combined with a track map, the digital data will make it possible to create exact replicas of the track-bearing surface. A similar technique has been used in the Peace Region to document dinosaur trackways.

The full article can be read at: www.nature.com/articles/s41598-018-22059-5

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