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Ancient Discovery Reveals Ice Age Hunting Techniques

Humans have always had to eat. Therefore, humans have always had to hunt. Evidence of prehistoric hunting recently was unearthed at White Sands National Monument in New Mexico.


According to the National Park Service, a team of scientists followed a string of fossilized footprints along a remote salt flat that revealed Ice Age humans were likely hunting a giant, razor-clawed ground sloth. And some hunting experts believe they can decipher the techniques used to bring down the sloth.

From NPS:


The White Sands trackway – a series of tracks and footprints are called a trackway – shows that someone followed a sloth, purposely stepping in their tracks as they did so, said David Bustos, the park naturalist who discovered the trackway 10 years ago.
Team member Matthew Bennett, a professor of environmental and geographical sciences at Bournemouth University in England believes the ancient humans stalked the sloth. “So, we ask why?  Adolescent exuberance? Possible but unlikely,” Bennett said. “We see interesting circles of sloth tracks in these stalked trackways which we call ‘flailing circles’. These record the rise of the sloth on its hind legs and the swing of its fore legs presumably in a defensive motion.”


We all have our stories from the deer woods, but probably nothing that compares to a giant sloth rearing up on us. 


Brody Henderson at MeatEater explains the significance of the White Sands find, and reveals what he believes are details about how the Ice Age men hunted their prey.


Finding these ghost fossils is like hitting the lottery since shifting sands can cover them up at any time and wind and water can quickly erode them out of existence. The tracks tell an incredible story of how humans may have hunted giant Ice Age megafauna like ground sloths or mammoths. 


The sloth prints contained a single set of human footprints. Brody believes this suggests a lone human tracker followed the sloth and pushed it towards a group of waiting hunters.


The nature of the tracks points to an active pursuit and struggle. Smeared footprints and quick changes in direction on the part of the sloth, which tended to move slowly in a straight line, along with human footprints surrounding the sloth, suggest the hunters actively harassed the animal in an attempt to kill it, probably with spears. 

Interestingly, fossilized tracks of human children and adults suggest the hunt included a large family group of human hunters.

Good stuff. The weapons have changed over the eons, of course, but the techniques remain the same. 

Jun 6, 2018 -

Read more about the find from NPS here, and more from Brody at MeatEater here.

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