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Discovery of 5,000-Year-Old Human Footprints in Denmark Shed Light on Life of Stone Age Fishermen

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Human footprints from 5,000 years ago, found on the coast of Denmark, could provide new information about the lives of ancient humans in northern Europe.

Fish fences were also found in the area, providing first-hand evidence of the hunting techniques of ancient Europeans. These were a primitive form of gillnet, a highly-effective mechanism for harvesting fish. Archaeologists discovered evidence of frequent repair of the ancient devices, likely carried out in response to frequent flooding.

The footprints discovered in the area suggest they were created by at least two people who jumped into the area to move one of these net systems. The ground was sandy and wet, and the pair (or small group) left footprints behind that dried up and were slowly covered in layers of dirt, preserving the markings for 50 centuries.

"This is really quite extraordinary, finding footprints from humans. Normally,what we find is their rubbish in the form of tools and pottery, but here, we suddenly have a completely different type of traces from the past, footprints left by a human being. We are familiar with animal footprints, but to the best of my knowledge, we have never come across human footprints in Danish Stone Age archaeology before," Terje Stafseth, an archaeologist from Museum Lolland-Falster, in Denamark, said.

Researchers believe they can tell a story from the findings at the site. The local village was struck by a massive storm, causing severe flooding. A small band then braved the elements to move the fish fence, in an effort to save an important source of food for the community. As they walked in the muddy waters of the southern Baltic Sea, their footprints recorded their journey for hundreds of generations.

"We are able to follow the footprints and sense the importance of the capture system, which would have been important for the coastal population to retain a livelihood and therefore worth maintaining," Stafseth stated.

Lolland is the fourth-largest island in the country and was inundated with streams and inlets until the end of the 1800s. In 1872, a massive storm brought flooding, which killed 80 people on the island. This disaster prompted local leaders to build a dyke to hold back the water, a project which was completed five years later.

People of the Stone Age used fjords around Denmark for a wide range of purposes, from fishing to making sacrifices.

This is the first discovery of its kind ever made in Denmark.

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