Ancient footprints made by children were found in a cave called La Garma in Cantabria, Spain. The footprints, which were embedded in clay soil, may have been made as far back as 16,500 years ago.
Researchers have been working inside of the cave for over 25 years and it’s incredible that they’re still making astonishing discoveries like these footprints. La Garma cave was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO back in 2008.
The cave contains numerous vertical cavities that have been compared to a nine-story building. Some of the cavities connect to one another while others do not. Researchers have made several archaeological finds over the years, such as cave paintings and other remnants of those who once inhabited the area during the Palaeolithic Period.
The footprints were presented by Pablo Zuloaga, who is the regional vice president and counselor for Universities and Culture, as well as Roberto Ontañón and Pablo Arias who are the excavation directors. Zuloaga expressed the significance of the discovery by stating that it is one of the “banners” from Cantabria’s archaeological heritage in addition to being one of the “most important worldwide” sites dating back to the Palaeolithic Period. He went on to say that the prints are “...further proof that La Garma is extraordinary” and that “La Garma is infinite.”
The prints were not that easy to find as they were located several meters above the lower gallery where the majority of the archaeological work occurs. In the clay soil, they found fingerprints as well as numerous footprints – some with just the heel embedded and others with the whole foot.
The barefoot children left 13 prints in total. Based on the size of the prints, the children would have been between 6 and 7 years of age. It is unclear how many kids made the prints but it is believed that it was more than one. Since the tracks appeared to show the children moving back and forth, with some prints showing just the heels, it has been suggested that perhaps they were playing a game. “Many are only from the heels, it's as if the little ones walked without stepping fully or as if they did not want to stain their feet,” the researchers explained.
Interestingly, the prints were found a little more than 300 meters (984 feet) from the area where the researchers had previously found evidence of Palaeolithic settlements. (A picture of the footprints can be seen here.)
More research of the area will be conducted such as using geomatic techniques (a topographic survey that uses laser scanners, photogrammetry, high resolution photography, and 3D restitution).