Feet of clay offer glimpse of life 23,000 years ago

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HUNDREDS of human footprints — the oldest in Australia and the largest collection of its kind in the world — have been found in the Mungo National Park in south-western NSW.

They were left by children, adolescents and adults between 19,000 and 23,000 years ago, at the height of the last ice age, as they ran and walked across a moist clay area near the Willandra Lakes.

The prints were laid down in wet clay containing calcium carbonate, which hardened like concrete.

The first footprint was spotted by Mary Pappin jnr, of the Mutthi Mutthi people, two years ago and more than 450 more have since been uncovered by a team led by Steve Webb of Bond University.

Professor Webb said the find provided a unique glimpse into the lives of those who lived in the arid inland. "It brings these people to life in a way no other archaeological evidence can. You can see how the mud squelched between their toes."

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