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Palaeontology

Who was responsible for the 'Devil's trail' ?

January 29, 2020 | Comment icon 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.

Source: Forbes | Comments (10)



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Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by XenoFish 2 years ago
Humans be curious creatures.
Comment icon #2 Posted by Nnicolette 2 years ago
Obsidian.
Comment icon #3 Posted by MissJatti 2 years ago
Certain Death
Comment icon #4 Posted by Robotic Jew 2 years ago
It was me...sorry guys.
Comment icon #5 Posted by Seti42 2 years ago
Good hypothesis. Obsidian would have been a real treasure in the stone age. Fun fact: It's still used for some surgical blades. 
Comment icon #6 Posted by Ozfactor 2 years ago
If they were after obsidian, couldn't they have waited for the lava to cool before walking on it ?
Comment icon #7 Posted by jbondo 2 years ago
Cue the Unknown Comic doing his impression of the first man on the sun.
Comment icon #8 Posted by DieChecker 2 years ago
Tony... it was Tony. I could imagine them going up there to get something... Fire maybe. Or perhaps for religious reasons. Many speculate Nesnderthals originated the idea of religion.
Comment icon #9 Posted by Jujo-jo 2 years ago
My answer is suicide. They wouldn't have walked up there to get fire or lava, for one they wouldn't be able to get close enough to handle either one without being burnt and even if they did they wouldn't have the means to carry it back down without it disintegrating whatever they put either one in.  Even if they wanted to look over the edge out of curiosity they would have fried or got burnt, my guess is death only other options would be to attempt a rescue of someone or something. We can't even walk on hot payment that the sun has heated without burning the bottoms of our feet, so there shoes... [More]
Comment icon #10 Posted by jethrofloyd 2 years ago
As far as I know all the tracks lead in the same direction......AWAY FROM THE VOLCANO'S CRATER. Not up towards the crater.The occasional handprints was found alongside the tracks on the cliff face of the volcano. This suggests that the tracks were made by neanderthals who needed to steady themselves as they made the perilous descent down the steep slope. For some reason they were up there at the top of the mountain when the eruption happened. They were descending the volcano to escape the eruption.


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