Archaeologists not too long ago stumbled upon a set of mysterious ‘ghost footprints’ within the salt flats of a Utah desert.

These uncommon historic tracks get their eerie title not as a result of they’re from an ethereal realm, however resulting from their earthly composition: They turn into seen solely after it rains and the footprints fill with moisture and turn into darker in coloration, earlier than disappearing once more after they dry out within the solar.


Researchers by chance found the bizarre impressions in early July as they drove to a different close by archaeological website at Hill Air Power Base in Utah’s Nice Salt Lake Desert.

The staff initially solely discovered a handful of footprints, however an intensive sweep of the encompassing space utilizing ground-penetrating radar (GPR) revealed at the very least 88 particular person footprints belonging to a spread of adults and kids, probably as younger as 5 years outdated.

(The GPR method works by firing radio waves into the bottom that bounce off objects which might be hidden below the floor.)

The ghostly prints had been left by naked human toes at the very least 10,000 years in the past when the world was nonetheless an enormous wetland. Nevertheless, researchers suspect that the tracks might date again so far as 12,000 years in the past through the last stretch of the final ice age through the Pleistocene epoch (2.6 million to 11,700 years in the past).

The traditional footprints. (R. Nial Bradshaw)

The invention of so many historic footprints is a “once-in-a-lifetime discovery,” Anya Kitterman, the cultural useful resource supervisor at Hill Air Power Base who oversaw the archaeological work, mentioned in an announcement. “We discovered a lot greater than we bargained for.” 

Nevertheless, the invention has not but been revealed in a peer-reviewed journal as a result of researchers are nonetheless analyzing the footprints. 


Associated: 100,000-year-old Neanderthal footprints present kids enjoying within the sand

The Nice Salt Lake Desert was as soon as lined by a big, salty lake just like the close by Nice Salt Lake – the most important saltwater lake within the Western Hemisphere – which the desert is called after.

The traditional lake slowly dried up resulting from modifications in Earth‘s local weather triggered by the tip of the final ice age, which left behind the salts that had been as soon as dissolved within the water.

However through the transition from lake to dry salt flats, the world was briefly a big wetland that was occupied by people up till 10,000 years in the past, in response to the assertion

Throughout this time, the circumstances would have been good to create the ghost footprints, the researchers mentioned.

Folks seem to have been strolling in shallow water, with the sand quickly infilling their print behind them, a lot as you may expertise on a seaside,” lead researcher Daron Duke, an archaeologist with Far Western Anthropological Analysis Group, a non-public agency that makes a speciality of cultural assets administration, mentioned within the assertion.

“However below the sand was a layer of mud that saved the print intact after infilling.”

Daron Duke reveals guests the traditional footprints. (R. Nial Bradshaw)

The footprints have since been crammed in with salt because the wetlands dried out, making them indistinguishable from the encompassing panorama once they’re dry, Duke added.

Usually, when it rains, the water is shortly absorbed deep into the encompassing sediment, which implies the bottom shortly returns to its regular coloration. However when the rain falls on prime of the hidden muddy footprints, the water will get trapped, creating patches of darkish and moist sediment that stand out from their environment.


Lower than a mile (1.6 kilometers) away from the place the tracks had been uncovered, a earlier analysis group uncovered a hunter-gatherer camp relationship to 12,000 years in the past, the place the people who left the prints may need lived.

Archaeological finds on the website included an historic hearth, stone instruments used for cooking, a pile of greater than 2,000 animal bones, and charred tobacco seeds, that are the earliest proof of tobacco use in people.

The researchers concerned with the brand new discovering have collected among the footprints so as to decide their precise age. Utilizing radiocarbon relationship, researchers hope to have the ability to analyze small items of natural materials that would have been trapped within the sediment by the foot of whoever left the prints, in response to the assertion.

This area is a hotspot for historic human trackways. In September 2021, a examine revealed that 60 human footprints in White Sands Nationwide Park in New Mexico dated to between 21,000 and 23,000 years in the past, making them the oldest “unequivocal proof” of people within the Americas. These footprints had been additionally found utilizing GPR.

“We’ve lengthy puzzled whether or not different websites like White Sands had been on the market and whether or not GPR could be efficient for imaging footprints at different places,” Thomas City, an archaeologist at Cornell College who developed the GPR survey method used at White Sands and extra not too long ago on the Hill Air Power Base, mentioned in an announcement.


“The reply to each questions is sure.”

The researchers say that most of these discoveries are essential as a result of they’re direct proof of human settlement within the space and are far more visceral than different close by archaeological discoveries.

“There may be a direct human connection to seeing human footprints,” Duke mentioned. “To see them from a distant previous, particularly a lot completely different than it seems at the moment, could be impactful.”

Associated content material:

Ice age kids frolicked in ‘large sloth puddles’ 11,000 years in the past, footprints reveal

Prehistoric desert footprints are earliest proof for people on Arabian Peninsula

10,000-year-old footprints present journey of squirmy toddler and caregiver 

This text was initially revealed by Stay Science. Learn the authentic article right here.


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