The fossil footprints of Engare Sero
Prehistory fascinates me. I know I’ve said this many times, but it just fascinates me. 😃 Walking in the same place hominids walked thousands and thousands of years ago gives me an incredible feeling.
That’s what happened when I went to fossil footprints of Engare Sero a few weeks ago, on my way to Lake Natron and the volcano Ol-Doinyo Lengai. 🗻
Tanzania, often referred to as the ‘cradle of humanity’, has unique sites which have greatly helped scholars to progress in their research on the origins of man and on the various periods related to evolution.
The Olduvai Gorge is the most well-known, but there are also Laetoli, the rock paintings of Kolo-Kondoa, and many other examples that support the hypothesis of an origin of humanity linked to these lands.
In fact, the natural context is spectacular for the climate, for the environment, for a whole series of reasons that make me think of primitive men as endowed with excellent taste. 😜
I have a vague idea of what the landscape looked like thousands of years ago, but I imagine it was much less crowded, though much more dangerous. I imagine that the discoveries of metals, fire🔥, weapons and furnishing were linked to necessity, but I also imagine that they were exceptional achievements, full of even supernatural meanings.
Sometimes I try to think about the type of relationships that were established between men and women, between adults and children, between young and old. Perhaps right here we must seek the roots of some of our attitudes, ancient roots of which we have no clear memory, but which we manifest in our behavior.
Having met the Hadzabe, a tribe of hunter-gatherers living on the edge of Lake Eyasi, opened up a bit the channels of my imagination. A population, unfortunately decimated in number, which still lives in a primitive way of hunting and gathering, which ‘talks’ to birds, which dances to express its happiness, which lives in huts unable to protect its members during the rain, which sleeps on mats made from animal skins and camouflages with baboon skins. A population that has a symbiotic relationship with the baobab, used to conserve and protect, within which the tribe shelters from the elements and meets for decisions.
Now, I imagine primitive man like this, linked to the territory, the environment, nature, the sun, which often has divine connotations in many tribes.
The 408 footprints found in Engare Sero, dated between 19.100 and 5.760 years ago, tell us about these men, tell us details, help us to understand human life in years so far away as to make us dizzy.
The fossil footprints of Engare Sero is the largest ever discovered in Africa.
17 people have been identified who walked right here: 14 women and two adult men with a young male.
But how did they remain so indelibly impressed? It is presumed that the group walked in the wet ash erupted by neighboring Ol-Doinyo Lengai. A special mud that, once dried and hardened, has kept the details of the footprints for thousands of years, defying the weather and the consequent erosion.
Studies by researchers indicate that females were visited or accompanied by males, in line with what is still happening today in groups such as the Hadzabe.
Going even deeper, we can hypothesize a division of labor based on sex in the first human aggregations.
It is not difficult to understand that this site is a photograph of the past, of a very distant past, which can still be seen, touched, which brings us closer to our ancestors even if only for a small moment.