For centuries, indigenous people had trekked long distances through the ancient North American woodlands. In their journeys, they came upon other Native Americans and traded tools and metals. They also shared ceremonial practices and mythical stories. To us those spiritual journeys seem so long ago, and seem to have a mystical quality. But what if we went back even further to pre-historic time? Could we possibly find an ancient spiritual hominid walk?
In the African Sub-Sahara in 1975 a team of archeologists led by Mary Leakey discovered tracks in hardened volcanic ash. At first the team identified them as animal tracks. Further analysis attributed the tracks to an early human-like species from the Pliocene Epoch 3.7 million years ago. The tracks contain foot prints of two walkers.
Researchers have studied the shape and alignment of the feet shown in these tracks. Based on this information and the stride, they believe that the prints were made by walkers who were bipedal and upright. The prints also show that the smaller walker had a weight on one side, which may suggest a female walker carrying a child on her hip.
The place of the archeological find is called Laetoli, and it is located in Tanzania, forty-five km south of Oldupai Gorge. Today the Laetoli site has a temperate highland tropical climate. But investigations of the tracks show a different climate when the footprints were made.
Climate Change and an Ancient Spiritual Hominid Walk
The sediment around the fossils indicates a region that was much more moist and fertile than it is today. Researchers believe that the change from forest to grasslands is correlated with upright and bipedal hominins, and may have triggered an evolution toward bipedalism around the Laetoli area. Although these prints are very ancient, since 1975 archeologists appear to have found even older hominid prints.
It’s interesting how climate change that occurred tens of thousands, or even millions of years ago could have shaped the path to where we are today. The African Sub Sahara has gone through tremendous changes, from a dense forest, to grasslands, then to desert areas. Our ancient ancestors were impacted at least by some of those changes.
Today it’s difficult for us to tell the purpose of those journeys long ago. Was it to a sacred site? Or perhaps the journey was part of a larger ceremony that we know nothing about today. Even if it was a mundane daily task, I still feel a spiritual connection to their ancient spiritual hominid walk and wonder what that could have been like.
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