Fossilized footprints that are about 300,000 years old were discovered at the Schöningen quarry. brown coal mine. These are the oldest known human footprints ever found in Germany. Three tracks of Homo heidelbergensis, pre-Neanderthal early humans who inhabited the area, were found between the Paleolithic elephant tracks.
The site was a lake shoreline during the Paleolithic era, a watering hole for large mammals (horses, saber-toothed cats, deer, bears, wild boars, wolves, elephants, rhinos, aurochs, buffaloes), reptiles, birds and a home for fish, mussels and microscopic organisms, such as diatoms. The remains and traces of all creatures have been found, preserved in dense layers of waterlogged soil and silt deposits.
Scientists attribute two of the three human footprints in Schöningen to young people who used the lake and its resources as part of a small mixed age group. “Depending on the season, plants, fruits, leaves, shoots and mushrooms were available around the lake. Our finds confirm that the extinct human species lived on the banks of lakes or rivers with shallow water. It is also known from other Lower and Middle Pleistocene sites with traces of hominins,” says Dr. Flavio Altamura, researcher at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and the Paleoenvironment of the University of Tübingen.
According to the study, various footprints in Schöningen provide insight into the daily life of a family and can provide information about the behavior and social composition of hominin groups, as well as spatial interactions and coexistence with elephant herds and other, smaller mammals. “Based on the tracks, including those of children and teenagers, it was probably a family outing and not a group of adult hunters,” says the archaeologist and fossil track expert. (…)
“The elephant tracks we found in Schöningen reach an impressive length of 55 centimeters. In some cases, we also found fragments of wood in impressions that the animals pressed into the soil, which was still soft at the time,” explains Dr. Jordi Serangeli, head of the excavations in Schöningen. “There is also one rhinoceros track – Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis or Stephanorhinus hemitoechus – which is the first track of any of these Pleistocene species ever found in Europe.”
Homo heidelbergensis made full use of the rich plant and animal resources of the lake. Stone tools and wooden weapons were excavated at this site, and traces of butchering were found on more than 10,000 animal bones. Local hominids hunted not only large mammals, lake. In 2017, archaeologists unearthed an almost complete skeleton female forest elephant with straight tusks. She was about 50 years old and weighed almost seven tons, more than a modern African elephant, with tusks 7.5 feet long. She almost certainly died of old age at the end of her natural life. Elephants often came ashore to die, and most of the bones were found in their anatomically correct arrangement. Although she died in the water, bite marks on the bones indicate that the carcass was exposed to scavengers on the surface for some time. Homo heidelbergensis also helped themselves, as evidenced by three bone artifacts and 30 stone ones polished for cutting meat.
The study of fossil footprints was published in the journal Quaternary Scientific Reviews and you can read Here.