Newly identified hominin trackways from the Cape south coast of South Africa

Keywords: Homo sapiens, fossil tracks, aeolianites, southern Africa, Pleistocene

Abstract

Three new Pleistocene hominin tracksites have been identified on the Cape south coast of South Africa, one in the Garden Route National Park and two in the Goukamma Nature Reserve, probably dating to Marine Isotope Stage 5. As a result, southern Africa now boasts six hominin tracksites, which are collectively the oldest sites in the world that are attributed to Homo sapiens. The tracks were registered on dune surfaces, now preserved in aeolianites. Tracks of varying size were present at two sites, indicating the presence of more than one trackmaker, and raising the possibility of family groups. A total of 18 and 32 tracks were recorded at these two sites, respectively. Ammoglyphs were present at one site. Although track quality was not optimal, and large aeolianite surface exposures are rare in the region, these sites prove the capacity of coastal aeolianites to yield such discoveries, and they contribute to what remains a sparse global hominin track record. It is evident that hominin tracks are more common in southern Africa than was previously supposed.

Significance:

  • Three new Pleistocene hominin trackways have been identified on the Cape south coast, bringing the
    number of known fossil hominin tracksites in southern Africa to six.
  • The tracks were all registered on dune surfaces, now preserved as aeolianites.
  • These are the six oldest tracksites in the world that are attributed to Homo sapiens.
  • Hominin tracks are more common in southern Africa than was previously supposed.
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Published
2020-09-29

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