Who was responsible for the 'Devil's trail' ?
By T.K. Randall
January 29, 2020 · 10 comments
Who was walking on the volcano and why ? Image Credit: CC BY 2.0 edmondo gnerre
Researchers have shed new light on a trail of fossil footprints found along the side of an extinct volcano.
Known locally as 'Ciampate del Diavolo' or 'Devil's Trail', the impressive prints, which were preserved within pyroclastic flow deposits on the side of Italy's extinct Roccamonfina volcano, were discovered by researchers in 2001 and date back around 350,000 years.
For centuries, the local people have attributed these prints to a demon or devil, but in more recent years scientists have begun to shed light on which species of hominin may have been responsible.
Now according to a new paper, the most likely candidate would have been Neanderthals, not modern humans, and they were climbing up the volcano, not down it.
At least five individuals made the ascent, although it is not clear why they should have been going up there, especially since the volcano must have erupted shortly beforehand.
When fresh, the material that preserved the prints would have been a searing 300 degree Celsius, meaning that they must have at least waited for a while before attempting the climb.
Certainly, questions still remain, such as whether or not they ever made it back down again alive.
Also, did they go up there out of curiosity or did they have a more specific goal in mind ?
As things stand, we may never know for sure.
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