2005 Salt Lake City Annual Meeting (October 16–19, 2005)

Paper No. 13
Presentation Time: 1:30 PM-5:30 PM


ONAC, Bogdan P., Department of Geology SCA 528, University of South Florida, 4202 E. Fowler Ave, Tampa, FL 33620, VIEHMANN, Iosif, Institute of Speleology "Emil Racovita", Clinicilor 5, Cluj, 400006, Romania, LUNDBERG, Joyce, Department of Geography, Carleton Univ, Ottawa, K1S5B6, Canada, LAURITZEN, Stein-Erik, Department of Geosciences, University of Bergen, Allegt. 41, Bergen, 4007, Norway and STRINGER, Christopher, Department of Palaeontology, The Natural History Museum, London, SW7 5BD, England, onac_geo_usf@yahoo.com

Humanoid footprints in the fossil record are rare. A survey of the literature reveals only few well documented, dated cases. The one, from ~325 ka in Italy, represents a very early, pre-Neanderthal human. The other, from ~117 ka in Africa, is likely a Homo sapiens sapiens print. Here we report the first clearly Homo sapiens neanderthalensis footprint. It was found in Vârtop Cave, Romania. The person stepped into calcareous mud that later hardened. The 22 cm long print suggests a body height of ~1.46 m; a gap of 1.6 cm marks the separation of big toe and second toe. The date of the footprint is constrained by the date of the deposition of the mud (~97 ka, dated by U-Th isochron method) and by three dates of ~62 ka on sub-samples from the basal layer of a nearby stalagmite that grew on top of the calcareous mud. Thus the Vârtop Cave person lived in Romania sometime between 97 and 62 ka, long before the earliest known Homo sapiens sapiens remains in Europe (~35-30 ka). To our knowledge, this is the first discovered and dated Homo sapiens neanderthalensis footprint.