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Strange Cases of Impossible Fossils

History can be a difficult thing to try and comprehend. We are mostly left to look at written accounts and artifacts left behind by people from the past to try and peer through a foggy window into time. Going out beyond that we get into prehistory, the realm of dusting off fossils and trying somehow to piece together the natural history of our planet through the fossilized remains of the creatures that once inhabited past eras before humans were not even a glint in the eye of the universe. The fossil record of course is patchy, fossils are rare, and we have far from a complete picture of the millions of years that preceded our arrival. We are constantly unearthing new species and even whole new types of amazing organisms from the fossil record, and it can be quite wondrous. Yet, every once in a while there is a supposed fossil find that truly is meant to shake the foundations of what we think we know. From humans walking amongst the dinosaurs to mysterious prehistoric giants, here are some of the weirdest alleged fossils that should in no way exist.

Some of the more well-known and numerous of what are often called “impossible fossils” are anomalous human tracks impressed into ancient rock that seem to stride up right alongside the lumbering dinosaurs that once crashed across the earth, as if there were humans out taking a stroll with the terrible lizards of before the dawn of time. This was a time long before humans or even our most remote ancestors were anything more than tiny rodent-like creatures cowering in the dark from the looming, terrifying  presence of our hulking reptilian overlords, yet some weird findings seem to almost absurdly suggest that there were modern humans walking around.

By far the most controversial such case is a discovery made in 1908, along the Paluxy River of Texas, in the United States, near the city of Glen Rose at a place called Dinosaur Valley State Park. The area gets its name from the numerous well-preserved fossilized dinosaur footprints found meandering across the ancient river bed, but what wouldn’t be expected are the remnants of what appeared to be human tracks as well. These anomalous tracks became quite the tourist attraction during the 1930s, but were eventually discredited by a paleontologist named Ronald Bird, who came to the conclusion that some of the mysterious tracks were simply misidentified tracks of bipedal dinosaurs, which had been twisted by time and the way they were imprinted so as to look vaguely human, and others were actual fake forgeries chiseled into the rock by enterprising locals in order to draw in more visitors and of course make money.

Paluxy River footprints

This was not the last word on the Paluxy tracks, also called the Burdick Tracks, and in the 1970s they were embraced by Creationists, which will become a running theme throughout this article, but the tracks themselves have largely been debunked on several occasions by paleontologists claiming that they are actually just elongated prints from known dinosaurs. Nevertheless, it is interesting to note that the “human” footprints of the Paluxy River have managed to remain debated and discussed to this day, with numerous Creationist sites touting their authenticity and claiming conspiracy theories of a cover up by the scientific community. Indeed, there have been ongoing digs carried out there and new finds reportedly made by creationists all the way up to the present.

The most mysterious, oft-discussed, and most recently discovered of the anomalous tracks found at the Paluxy River is one most often referred to as the Alvis-Delk track, or just the Delk print, which is rather bizarrely an imprint of an Acrocanthosaurus track overlaying with what appears to be the print of a human foot measuring around 11 inches long. It is baffling in that it looks very much like a human made a print in the mud, only for the dinosaur to come lumbering by moments later and squish right into it. This particular bizarre track was supposedly found in 2000, by an Alvis Delk and James Bishop, who apparently removed it and had it sent to a laboratory, where it underwent vigorous X-ray and CT scan analysis and was allegedly found to have not been carved or altered in any way.

It is all very intriguing, but of course the footprint has been the target of much skepticism, especially since it has been kept hidden away by the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose, Texas, and most of the information available on the print has been released by creationists, which is perhaps enough to raise a few eyebrows for many. There is also not much that can be done to corroborate the veracity of the original analysis, and subsequent looks at the photos by paleontologists have produced criticism that the track does not seem to be genuine, leading to the idea that the print was nothing more than a forgery crafted by Delk for money. A good, detailed analysis of the mystery print can be found here for those who are interested. Whatever the case may be, the Delk track has continued to be controversial and debated.

The Delk Print

While certainly the most well known of these anomalous prehistoric human footprints, the numerous, mostly officially debunked Paluxy tracks are far from the only examples found over the years. In the 1880s there was discovered some fossilized tracks in Jackson County, Kentucky, embedded in a layer of rock dating back to the Carboniferous Period, from about 359.2 to 299 million years ago. There in the stone were found some assorted tracks, including two clear human footprints, as well as what looked like those of a horse and a bear, none of which had any business roaming the swamps of this prehistoric era.

There was also a human footprint discovered in 1987 by paleontologist Jerry MacDonald in the U.S. state of New Mexico. MacDonald came across a sheet of rock from the Permian Period, 290 to 248 million years ago, that possessed the tracks of several ancient birds and assorted wildlife, as well as a clearly defined human footprint. Interestingly, once again, none of these tracks, human or not, should have been there in that stone, yet there they apparently were. The puzzling finding featured in a 1992 article in the Smithsonian Magazine, and still has not been satisfactorily explained. There have even purportedly been truly outlandish findings of what appear to be actual shoe prints in prehistoric rock, such as that found in a seam of 15-million-year-old coal at Fisher Canyon, Nevada. The size 13 footprint bizarrely shows what appears to be the imprint of the sole of a shoe, complete with visible stitching and uneven wear and tear. Natural phenomena or evidence of time travel? Who knows?

If finding a fossilized human footprint or shoe print isn’t weird enough for you, how about finding an actual fossilized shoe? A curious account was first published in 1999 in a book called Why Do Men Believe Evolution Against All Odds? by Carl Baugh. Within the book is contained the strange case of a decidedly odd discovery supposedly made in 1980 at a creek bed near Iraan in west Texas. Amateur archeologist Jerry Stone reportedly was looking through the area when he stumbled across a leather boot which was claimed to have within it an actual fossilized human foot. The boot and its foot were apparently taken in for analysis, when the foot was purportedly found to be around 40 million years old, while the boot was not fossilized at all, and was estimated to have been manufactured in the 1950s. No explanation was given as to why the human foot should be fossilized while the boot remained normal.

The mysterious boot

Of course this bizarre artifact was snatched up by the Creationist Evidence Museum, where they claim it was subjected to various tests in 1997 and 2006, the findings which have been kept under wraps. Interestingly, the boot was suddenly removed from display for unexplained reasons, and has never been offered for independent analysis, which along with the lack of available lab results makes it all rather suspicious indeed. Despite the fact that there is no way at all to know if this boot was ever really examined or if it ever really even existed or not, there have nevertheless been efforts to try and explain it, such as that the boot had become filled with some sort of sediment that hardened and gave the impression of a fossil foot, or that it was even the result of the foot being liquified from the fall of an airplane, after which the flesh re-hardened into what appeared to be stone.

Without any further documentation there is no way to know at all how true any of it is or just what we are supposed to think of this one, and the so-called “Limestone Cowboy” remains just a weird curiosity that we will never be able to prove or disprove, fertile grounds for conspiracy theories. A similarly strange fossil find was made in 1968 in the state of Utah, where an apparent fossilized sandal was found in a chunk of rock about 300 million to 600 million years old, right beside the fossil of a trilobite. Even more amazingly, the trilobite in question, a creature which it is worth mentioning died out 280 million years ago, even appears to have been actually stepped on and crushed by the sandal. Time traveller, ancient alien, hoax? In addition to footprints there are also even supposed fossilized handprints, such as one that was apparently found in the 1995 near the city of  Weatherford, Texas. The fossil shows what appears to be a human hand with clear fingers splayed out, pressed into Cretaceous rock that is estimated to be around 110 million years old, with the Creation Evidence Museum saying of it:

The fossil handprint(sic) is so specific that it displays impressions of the thumbnail, impressions of the tissue webbing between the thumb and index finger, and the impression left by penetration of the middle finger into the mud.

The fossil handprint

Considering that there is very little information on who found it or under what circumstances, plus the fact that it is another specimen kept by the Creation Evidence Museum and that no data has been released, this is another one that can be filed as questionable. Perhaps equally questionable is a supposed fossilized human hand print complete with fossil human finger kept by the museum, which is claimed to have been pulled up from Cretaceous limestone at the Commanche Peak Limestone formation in Texas. Speaking of strange fossilized remains, in 1981 archeologist Ed Conrad was inspecting an area of prehistoric coal dating back to the Carboniferous Era, around 360 million years ago, when he uncovered what appeared to be a human skull embedded within. How did it get there? No one really knows.

Some of these impossible handprints, footprints, and other weird fossils don’t even always appear to be from normal humans at all, but rather from some sort of giants. Take a fossilized footprint found near the towns of Mpaluzi and Lothair, South Africa, right on the Swaziland border. Called the “Goliath’s Footprint,” it seems to be a very human looking print pressed into the prehistoric stone, measuring a whopping four feet long and estimated as having been imprinted over 200 million years ago. Many skeptics point out that it is most likely just a very strange looking natural formation. There is also a “giant’s footprint” found in 1925 in the area of Bushy Peak, California, by a James Higgins, which measured 5 feet long, as well as prints of even greater size in the same region, which were written of in an article in the Hayward Semi-Weekly:

Pioneer residents claim a “footprint” similar to the description given by Higgins of the one on Bushy Peak, only of greater size can be seen on the John Bunting ranch near the Mission San Jose.This footprint measures nearly eight feet in its length. It is said, and is very deeply embedded In solid rock.The third mysterious foot mar is said to hare been seen on the Indian Reservation, near the Pleasant Valley road, between Sunol and Pleasanton. This foot-print, like the others, is of immense size and deeply marked on a granite cliff.

Is this indicative that giants once roamed the earth, and left their inscrutable footprints etched into history? It is quite probable that these are natural anomalies or even hoaxes, yet many insist that these are true unexplained mysteries deserving of further attention. In the end, with all of these cases we are left with some rather compelling, yet ultimately not very helpful “evidence.” It is just incredibly difficult to fit such fossils into what we know of natural history without having to rewrite everything. From what we know of evolution and the fossil record these findings should be impossible, there should be nothing even approaching human remains or footprints dating back tens or even hundreds of millions of years, and considering that there is nothing to prove any of this either way it has made for a perfect environment for endless debate and wild theories.

Of course creationists love this sort of thing, as it is a chance for them to latch onto some sort of evidence that humans did in fact co-exist with dinosaurs, yet how this helps their view that the Earth is young when these rocks date back hundreds of millions of years is anyone’s guess. There are also the wild theories that this is indicative of the existence of time travel, with these explorers accidentally leaving evidence of their passing behind during their journeys through the recesses of ancient history and prehistory, and there is even the idea that ancient aliens could be behind such finds. While it seems so exciting to think that our natural history could be so spectacularly misunderstood up to now, it seems more likely that sadly this is mostly either hoaxed evidence or misinterpretation of natural phenomena, but whatever the case may ultimately be we are unable at this point to say for sure whether any of these discoveries are real or deduce what they mean. We just don’t know, and they are curious oddities that will likely continue to fuel debate no matter what one’s personal opinion might be.