By Erich von Fange
Part 7 

Table of Contents

Footprints Tell Tales

Handprints and footprints have held a fascination since ancient times. Paintings and rock carvings of these representations are found in many parts of the world. On rare occasions footprints are found or uncovered in rock strata. For such prints to form in the first place, they must be rapidly covered or they will erode away from wind and water action. From time to time human prints have been reported in strange places. Understandably, paleontologists are not interested in considering the possibility of human prints in formations they believe to be older than the emergence of man.

One paleontologist warned his colleagues about the extraordinary forms that 'false' prints may take. He described a print found in Triassic rock. It appeared to be the fossilized leather sole of a shoe, about size 13, which showed a double line of sewed stitches, one line close to the outside edge and the other parallel at a distance of about a third of an inch. The edges of the sole were rounded off smoothly as if cut, and the right side of the heel seems to be more worn than the left (Victoria Institute , 1948, 80:21-22).
Another unusual find was reported in newspapers in 1968, but geologists had no comment about it. A sandal footprint of an adult and the footprints of a child were found embedded in strata right on top of trilobite fossils. This is a Cambrian deposit near Antelope Springs, Utah (See Table 1: Q). Photographs have been published of these finds, but more evaluation is needed. 
This find must be classed as very inconclusive, tempting as it may appear (CRSQ, 1968, 5:3, p.97).
In the American Journal of Science a number of references to footprints in rock strata are discussed and reproduced, such as the following: Human impressions were reported in various locations in South America, but details are lacking...Human footprints in a limestone slab in a paved area between a house and garden in New Harmony, Indiana...A rock outcrop extending for three miles in front of St. Louis, Missouri, one to 200 feet wide, was observed during low water stages. The large number of human footprints there were noted already by early French explorers. The prints are in crinoidal limestone. The prints are described as of a man standing erect with toes spread apart. They appeared strikingly natural with every muscular impression, and the swell of heel and toes. The print described was about 10 1/2 inches long. The observer contrasted these prints with obviously carved footprints he had observed elsewhere...Other prints were reported in a quarry at Herculaneum, Missouri, and on rocks near Kingston, New York (CRSQ , 1970, 7:4, p.205).
Footprints up to twenty inches long were found in sandstone near Carson City, Nevada. Some of the larger prints are very clear and well-defined and were reproduced in the American Journal of Science . While some argue that the prints were of humans, they were later identified as the prints of the giant sloth (Fort, 1941, p.159; Wendt, 1956, p.519-520). 
The State Geologist of Kentucky performed extensive tests on footprints found near Berea. The prints were discovered when the overburden from a sandstone formation was removed in logging operations about 1930. One series of prints found included some arranged in a normal walking stride. Microscopic studies showed that the grain counts were greater in the soles than in the adjacent sandstone, showing greater compression within the print areas. 
Distinct left and right foot impressions were found, each with five toes and with a distinct arch. The prints could not have been carved since some of the tracks were still partly covered by higher sandstone strata. Other prints have been reported in nearby areas, but further information is lacking (CRSQ , 1970, 7:4, p.207).
A shoeprint was discovered in a coal seam in Fisher Canyon, Pershing County, Nevada. The imprint of the sole is so clear that traces of sewed thread are visible. The age of the coal is estimated to be more than 15,000,000 years (Thomas, 1971, p.24).
Close by a lake near Managua, Nicaragua are perhaps the most famous footprints in the Americas. They lie under eleven strata of solid rock from 16-24 feet under the surface. Heated debate about the age of the prints has gone on for almost a century. Initially they were dated about 200,000 years old, but since the feet were perfectly modern the age was reduced to older than 50,000 years. The only geologist to visit the scene at the initial discovery also found traces of domesticated dogs and horses with the prints - an impossible situation to resolve. 

Polished stone artifacts and projectile points were also discovered. The prints are now dated at about 3000 B.C. on the basis of C14 tests, but this forces a considerable number of catastrophic events in a very short time period. Since various fossilized animal bones and mastodon remains have been found in strata above the human prints, the conclusion then is forced that the mastodon lived into very recent times. Near the city of San Raphael other human and animal tracks were found, including a sandal print which is now in the museum at Harvard (Victoria Institute , 1886, 22:148-152; Archaeology , 26 [April 1973], 146-147). 

Near Glen Rose, Texas, the river bed of the Paluxy river is still revealing the astonishing sight of what apparently is human and dinosaur tracks together in stone. The rock formation is the Cretaceous. In 1970, James Ryals, who had been cutting out tracks and selling them since the 1930s, was interviewed. He reported the human tracks as mostly barefooted, but sometimes encased in some form of wrapping. The stride varied from two to seven feet. There are human tracks crossing dinosaur tracks, and dinosaur tracks which have blotted out human tracks in sequence. 

Excavation of tracks show a compressed layer pattern underneath as one would expect if they are genuine. A scientist who did not examine the evidence ruled out the possibility that the tracks were human. A professor of medicine from the Unversity of Illinois examined the tracks and was convinced that they were genuine (CRSQ , 1970, 7:3, p.142; 1970, 7:4, p.246; Ryals, undated). Some years later at least some of the supposed human tracks were definitely shown to be dinosaur tracks. In the past 20 years many additional discoveries have been made to add to the controversy. Many books and articles treat these finds, both for and against their authenticity.

We must say that reports of footprints call for the utmost caution. Many people are imaginative creatures and with a little effort they can see almost anything patterned in worn rocks. Some rocks erode in a curious manner which could leave depressions much like footprints. No one questions the dinosaur footprints, however. The topic is too fascinating to pass by. Perhaps new finds will clarify the situation.