Scientists believe that 300,000 years ago, in Lower Saxony, Homo heidelbergensis shared space with an extinct species of elephant (Palaeoloxodon anticus) on the shores of a lake, thanks to newly discovered footprints in fossilized mud. The newly discovered footprints now represent the oldest ever found in Germany.
In one study Published In the journal Quaternary Science ReviewsSet in an open forest of birch and pine trees, the group highlighted how elephants, rhinoceroses, rhinoceroses and the now-extinct human family “Homo Heidelberg” lived on the muddy shores of the lake.
“Schöningen in Lower Saxony may have looked like this 300,000 years ago,” he explains. Press release Flavio Altamura is a researcher at the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Paleoecology at the University of Tübingen. “For the first time, we carried out a detailed investigation of the fossil footprints of two sites in Schöningen.”
By reconstructing the analysis of the site, he adds, the international team obtained information about the ancient animals that lived in the area, including the oldest known human footprints in Germany.
The team found human footprints that they believed represented a family, with two of the three footprints possibly belonging to young adults. “Judging by the footprints, including children and juveniles, this may have been a family excursion, not a group of adult hunters,” the study said.
“Depending on the season, there were plants, fruits, leaves, buds and mushrooms around the lake.” Altamura says. “Our findings confirm that extinct human species lived on the shores of lakes or rivers with shallow water.”
These three snapshots of the daily life of a family on the shores of a lake can help fill in more information about the behavior and social structure of Homo heidelbergensis. They can also provide data on Homo heidelbergensis interactions with other species such as elephants and small mammals that frequent water.
The anticipation of human footprints overshadowed the fact that researchers had also discovered footprints of various extinct mammals. Known for its straight tusks and 13-ton weight, the elephant Palaioloxodon is an extinct species of the ancient genus, probably related in some way to the human family. Even the rhinoceros tracks they found are intriguing – probably one of two Pleistocene species (Stephanorhinus kirchbergensis or Sepanohinus hemitocus) – the first to be found in Europe.
On the shores of a lake in Lower Saxony, 300,000 years ago has provided new data on interactions between humans and animals. And, according to the clues, it’s suitable for the whole family.