African tribesmen recruited to decipher footprints left by Ice Age Europeans

African tribesmen recruited to decipher footprints left by Ice Age Europeans

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The ancient tracking skills of Namibia’s San Bushmen are being brought to the French Pyrenees to investigate 13,000 year-old footprints left in the Niaux caves by European hunter gatherers.



Anthropologists Tilman Lenssen-Erz of the University of Cologne and Andreas Pastoors from the Neanderthal Museum in Mettmann decided that, to learn more about the tracks left by the ancient Magdalenian people, they had to employ the best trackers in the world.  San Bushmen, who also carry the oldest modern human DNA on the planet, are superb trackers and still live a largely hunter gatherer lifestyle on the African savanna where they are able to make accurate deductions from the faintest marks in the sand.

13,000 year-old footprints in the Niaux caves
13,000 year-old footprints in the Niaux caves

A team of scientists led by Lenssen-Erz and Pastoors will travel to Namibia next week to prepare the San for their prehistoric mission.  Three San trackers will then travel back as part of the team to commence work in the Pyrenees in July.

Dr Lenssen-Erz said: “The San are amongst the last known ‘trained’ hunters and gatherers of southern Africa.  The tracks in the caves are going to be examined by people who really know something about them.”

Dr Pastoors hopes the investigation will reveal, “more information that will give life to the tracks, for example whether the person was in a rush, or whether they were maybe ill or carrying something.”

The team plan to report their discoveries to a press conference at the University of Cologne on 17 July.  The San’s findings will be translated from their native Khoisan language into English by one of the trackers, Tsamkxao Cigae, acting as interpreter.

The Magdalenian culture spanned between 17,000 to 11,000 years ago and flourished with the human re-settlement of north-western Europe after the Last Glacial Maximum.

A female Magdalenian skeleton, dating to around 14,000 years ago, was discovered in a rock shelter in southwestern France in 1911.  Dubbed ‘the Magdalenian Girl’, she was acquired for the Field Museum in Chicago in 1926.  For years, she was thought to have been a young girl because her wisdom teeth had not yet advanced, but modern analysis indicated that her wisdom teeth were impacted and that she was actually 25 to 35 years old when she died.  The museum curators used modern technology to reconstruct her face, with the help of French artist Elisabeth Daynès.

The Magdalenian Girl's skeleton and facial reconstruction
The Magdalenian Girl’s skeleton and facial reconstruction

Source: Science Daily

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