Research ArticlePALEONTOLOGY

Human footprints provide snapshot of last interglacial ecology in the Arabian interior

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Science Advances  18 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 38, eaba8940
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aba8940
  • Fig. 1 The location of the Alathar paleolake site.

    (A) Map showing the location of the site within the western Nefud Desert, Saudi Arabia. (B) Three-dimensional oblique map of the site and location of tracks, fossils, and optically stimulated luminescence (OSL) samples.

  • Fig. 2 Critical dates relating to fossil evidence for H. sapiens outside of Africa during MIS 5 compared with the bracketed age for the Alathar footprints.

    (A) LR04 stack (top) (blue line) displaying the marine δ18O record (62). (B) Dated evidence for H. sapiens occupation of the Levant and the western Nefud Desert based on fossil evidence. Ages for occupation of the Levant are based on thermoluminescence (TL) ages from Skhul (63) and Qafzeh (64); see (65) for more detailed discussion. Al Wusta lake and fossils represent the Bayesian modeled age for units 2 and 3 (carbonate lake sediment and waterlain sands) (4). (C) OSL ages for the two lake samples from Alathar between which the hominin and faunal footprints lie (this study). (D) Summer insolation at 30°N (bottom) (orange line) (66).

  • Fig. 3 Full sedimentary sequence from Alathar with location of OSL dates shown by stars.

    The first section (bottom) (units 1 to 4b) lies stratigraphically below the second section (top) (units 5 to 7). The two sections were located ~30-m apart (see “OSL samples and strat logs” in Fig. 1), and the stratigraphic relationship between them is easily traced in the field. All footprints are located on the top of the first section (unit 4b) but beneath the second section. Photo credit: Richard Clark-Wilson, Royal Holloway, University of London.

  • Fig. 4 Digital elevation models of three selected hominin tracks (HPR001, HPR002, and HPR003).

    Photo credit: Klint Janulis, University of Oxford.

  • Fig. 5 The Alathar paleolake sediments, footprints, and fossils.

    (A) Plan view of the Alathar paleolake deposits with researchers indicated by white arrowheads. (B) First stratigraphic section (units FS1 to FS3). (C) Second stratigraphic section (units SS1 to SS3) overlying the first but located toward the center of the paleolake. (D and E) Example of an elephant track and trackway, Proboscipeda isp. (F) Camelid trackway, Lamaichnum isp. (G) Camelid forefoot (H) Camelid hindfoot. (I) Equid track, Hippipeda isp. (J) Bovid axis vertebra eroding out of the paleolake sediment. Photo credit: Gilbert Price, The University of Queensland and Richard Clark-Wilson, Royal Holloway, University of London.

Supplementary Materials

  • Supplementary Materials

    Human footprints provide snapshot of last interglacial ecology in the Arabian interior

    Mathew Stewart, Richard Clark-Wilson, Paul S. Breeze, Klint Janulis, Ian Candy, Simon J. Armitage, David B. Ryves, Julien Louys, Mathieu Duval, Gilbert J. Price, Patrick Cuthbertson, Marco A. Bernal, Nick A. Drake, Abdullah M. Alsharekh, Badr Zahrani, Abdulaziz Al-Omari, Patrick Roberts, Huw S. Groucutt, Michael D. Petraglia

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