Enigmatic footprints, thought to belong to a bear, have been linked to a mysterious human ancestor, the Journal of Human Evolution reported Monday.
Scientists making a daring expedition to a remote area of Mongolia said they had recently uncovered an unusually well-preserved footprint of an animal that has not been observed in the area for several thousand years.
The animal is not a bear, which has long been believed to have walked Mongolia’s terra firma. What’s more, it was not domesticated. Instead, it could be a hominid, which is a bipedal early human ancestor who walked on two legs or on four.
A lack of overlap in the tracks of dogs, wolves and bears makes the specimen unique, the study said.
“It is very unusual,” Xiaoqing Hu, the first author of the paper and a PhD student at Harvard University, told the journal.
The team has not named the species, but has said it could date back between 80,000 and 250,000 years. The ancient discoveries are in the eponymous book series, published in March by Oxford University Press.