Ancient footprints said to belong to a human man, woman and child in a Romanian cave discovered in the 1960s might be thousands of years older than originally thought, according to a new study.

Dr. David Webb, an anthropologist at Kutztown University, and the other study authors believe, based on new dating, that the footprints are not 10,000 to 15,000 years old as previously thought, but could be up to 36,500 years old.

When the prints in the Carpathian Mountain cave were initially discovered in 1965, there were more than 400 human footprints. Since that time though, much of the human evidence and that of the cave bear, a species now said to be extinct, were destroyed. Researchers returned to Ciur-Izbuc Cave in 2012 to analyze footprints that were left — only 25 percent originally described remain, according to the study. 

Footprints in the X cave were discovered in the 1960s but more recent research has shed light on the age of them. (Photo credit: Dr. David Webb)

Footprints in Ciur-Izbuc Cave were discovered in the 1960s, but more recent research on them suggests they are older than originally thought. (Photo credit: Dr. David Webb)

In addition to more recent radiocarbon dating of the cave bear bones that suggest the footprints in the cave are older than originally thought, other long-held theories about the prints might be debunked as well, including that only three individuals created them.

“It is impossible to confirm some of the original conclusions. The footprints do not cluster about three different sizes, and the number of individuals is estimated to be six or seven,” the study authors wrote. “Two cases of bears apparently overprinting humans help establish antiquity, and C-14 dates suggest a much greater age than originally thought.

“Unfortunately, insufficient footprints remain to measure movement variables such as stride length. However, detailed three-dimensional mapping of the footprints does allow a more precise description of human movements within the cave,” they said in the study published in the American Journal of Physical Anthropology.

In a poster presentation this team made of the same findings last year before publication, they suggested that scientists conduct “the most thorough scientific analysis possible at the outset, especially where land usage rights do not permit restricted access to them” in case destruction later makes the original find more difficult to analyze, as it did in this cave.

Science News pointed to other recent research that dated another a human footprint as 120,000 years old (though this has yet to be published in a peer-reviewed journal) and others of human ancestors dated at nearly 1 million years old.

(H/T: Reddit)

Front page image via Shutterstock.