13,000-year-old fossil footprints reveal mother and child trying to escape prehistoric predators

Analysis shows the adult scurried across sludgy terrain at a rapid pace

The remarkable prehistoric journey of a terrified mother and her toddler across a muddy riverbed frequented by ancient predators has been unearthed by scientists. Fossilised footprints show a small adult, most likely a woman but possibly a teenage male, trekking for almost a mile across the hunter hotbed 13,000 years ago.

Analysis shows the adult scurried across sludgy terrain at a rapid pace while carrying a two-year-old child. The pair, likely aware of the danger they were in, never deviated from a perfectly straight path, so as to minimise their time exposed.

The 1.5 km (0.9 mile) long walk was discovered in New Mexico and also shows the human route was later crossed by a mammoth and a giant sloth. It is the longest known trackway of early-human footprints ever found.

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Separate analysis of the playa, a dried up lakebed, reveals the area was also popular with sabre-toothed cats, dire wolves, bison and camels.

During this period of history, around 13,000 years ago, humans hunted some of these animals, and were hunted by others, making the journey extremely hazardous.

According to the researchers who discovered and analysed the tracks, the mother knew this too, hence her rapid pace.

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