Work on the Fehmarn belt tunnel system revealed the 5,000-year-old prints, which are the second-oldest to be discovered outside Africa. A tunnel is under construction which will connect the Danish island of Lolland with Fehmarn island, which is part of Germany.
The oldest discovered human footprints were found in Happisburgh, Norfolk this past February, and date from 800,000 years ago.
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5,000 year old footprints: Exciting times for archaeologists
Terje Stafseth is an archaeologist at Museum Lolland-Falster, and claimed that discovering human footprints is extraordinary. “Normally, what we find is their rubbish in the form of tools and pottery, but here, we suddenly have a completely different type of traces from the past, footprints left by a human being.”
“We are familiar with animal footprints, but to the best of my knowledge, we have never come across human footprints in Danish Stone Age archaeology before.”
Archaeologists believe that the footprints belong to Stone Age fishermen, due to the presence of 5,000-year-old gillnets fixed on stakes in the immediate vicinity. The surrounding area is full of fjords and streams, and the island would have been very exposed to the elements. Researchers have speculated that the fishermen entered the water to protect their fishing weir from being swept away.
Preserved by sand
Evidence suggests that the gillnets were then moved to a more secure location. The footprints were formed after the fishing system was flooded by seawater, washing in sand which filled the indentations and preserved the prints.
“The investigations have shown that the Stone Age population repeatedly repaired, and actually moved parts of the capture system in order to ensure that it always worked and that it was placed optimally in relation to the coast and currents,” said Stafseth.
“We are able to follow the footprints and sense the importance of the capture system, which would have been important for the coastal population to retain a livelihood and therefore worth maintaining.”
Not only do the prints represent a groundbreaking find in Danish archaeology, they also attest to the ingenuity of Stone Age man.