Lasting imprint

Published: Tuesday 15 April 2003

-- Italian scientists have stumbled across three fossilised footprints of early humans dating to about 350,000 years ago. The discovery was made on the sides of an active volcano.

The footprints are believed to be the oldest ever found of Palaeolithic humans. One of the footprint trails zigzags down to follow the safest path from a steep incline. Another includes an individual's handprints, left presumably as the person tried to make a steady descent.

Scientists speculate that one of the two early human species found in Europe during the Palaeolithic era -- Homo erectus or Homo heidelbergensis -- must have left behind the footprints. They infer that the humans' height must have been just under five feet.

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