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Scientists find 100,000-year-old human footprints on Moroccan beach

By Isabelle Martinetti - RFI
Europe  Mouncef Sedrati
FEB 11, 2024 LISTEN
© Mouncef Sedrati

Archaeologists in Morocco have unearthed more than 80 human footprints dating back some 100,000 years. They're believed to be the oldest in both North Africa and the southern Mediterranean.

The footprints, probably left by five Homo sapiens including children, were discovered on the coast of Larache, a city 90 kilometres south of Tangier.

The archaeologists – from Morocco, Spain, France, and Germany – said the footprints were some of the world's best-preserved human traces.

Their reseach was published in scientific journal Nature in January.

"We do have traces that tell us that, at the time, homo sapiens moved along the coast potentially to seek out marine resources," Mouncef Sedrati, geomorphologist at France's Universite Bretagne Sud, told RFI.

The researchers say they were probably fishermen or gatherers.

Rising sea levels

The discovery was made during a field mission in July 2022 as part of a research project on the origins and dynamics of boulders strewn along the coastline.

"Climate change and rising sea levels are behind the appearance of these traces," said Sedrati, who leads the research project.

"As the cliffs continue to erode, these footprints will disappear and others will be discovered. So we're faced with a dilemma: how can we preserve this heritage site?"

Rich history

The history of human evolution in this region of north-western Morocco is very rich.

In 2017, the remains of Homo sapiens dating back 300,000 years were unearthed in a breakthrough that pushed back the estimated origin of the human species by 100,000 years.

"The species Homo sapiens, to which we are all attached, more than likely originated in Africa in various places – whether in East Africa or in Morocco," French palaeoanthropologist Isabelle Crevecoeur told RFI.

"The idea that Homo sapiens originated in a single place in Africa is no longer really a reality. It's more a question of the evolution of different populations across the continent, probably with genetic flows between African regions."

Researchers say the footprints in Larache are further proof of the importance of the region in human history and will provide new evidence of the past.

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