(ORDO NEWS) — Archaeologists recently stumbled upon a set of mysterious “ghost footprints” in the salt marshes of a desert in Utah.
These unusual ancient footprints got their eerie name not because they were left by an otherworldly creature, but due to their composition: they become visible only after rain, when they are filled with moisture and become visually darker, after which the hot sun turns them into “ghosts” again.
Researchers accidentally discovered this strange phenomenon in early July while driving to another nearby archaeological site at Hill Air Force Base in the Great Salt Lake Desert in Utah.
Initially, the team found only a few tracks, but a thorough ground-penetrating radar (GPR) scan of the surrounding area revealed at least 88 individual tracks belonging to a range of adults and children, possibly as young as 5 years old.
Ground penetrating radar works by sending radio waves into the ground, which bounce off objects hidden below the surface.
Who left footprints in the desert?
“Ghost” prints were left by bare human feet at least 10,000 years ago, when the area was still a vast wetland.
However, the researchers suspect that the footprints could be dated 12,000 years ago during the last stretch of the last ice age in the Pleistocene era (2.6 million to 11,700 years ago).
Finding so many ancient footprints is “a once-in-a-lifetime find,” Anya Kitterman, Hill Air Force Base’s cultural resources manager who led the archaeological effort, said in a statement. “We found much more than we expected.”
However, the discovery has not yet been published in a peer-reviewed journal because researchers are still analyzing the traces.
Paradoxically, the Great Salt Lake Desert, named after the reservoir of the same name, was once the exact same lake itself.
But during the transition from the lake to the dry salt marshes, the area was briefly a large wetland that was occupied by humans until 10,000 years ago.
According to the researchers, during this time the conditions were ideal for creating those very “ghostly” traces.
Mark on history
It happened simply: people walked in shallow water, and the sand quickly filled the footprints in the same way as on the most ordinary beach, ”said lead researcher Daron Duke, an archaeologist with the Far Western Anthropological Research Group, a private firm that specializes in cultural resource management.
The only difference is that under the sand there was a layer of mud that remembered the shape of the foot.
Time passed, the swamp dried up, the tracks were covered with a salt crust and became indistinguishable from the surrounding landscape.
Only during the rain, when the earth gets wet and returns to its natural color, these prints darken and become visible.
By the way, less than one and a half from where the footprints were found, the previous research team found a hunter-gatherer camp dating back 12,000 years ago, where people who left footprints could live.
Archaeological finds at the site included an ancient fireplace, stone tools used for cooking, a pile of over 2,000 animal bones, and charred tobacco seeds, which are the earliest evidence of human tobacco use.
Contact us: [email protected]