A Three Million Year Old Hominid Footprint Found in Siwa, Egypt

Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, is announcing the discovery of a very old hominid footprint found in the Western Desert of Egypt, near Siwa.

BBC News broke this news to me, but Yahoo News is also covering it.

“This could go back about two million years,” antiquities council chief Zahi Hawass was quoted by Reuters as saying. However Khaled Saad, director of pre-history at the council, said it could be older still…

Scientists are now conducting carbon dating tests on plants in the mud where the footprint is in order to pinpoint its precise age.

Unfortunately, I can’t confirm if the photos of a footprint circulating around on some blogs are the actual footprints discovered. Rather than misinform y’all, I’ll have to sit tight until official photographs of them come from Hawass.

And also, unlike Hawass, I’m not jumping up for joy saying this, “could be the most important discovery in Egypt.” The significance of these footprints, if they really are older than two million years ago, is pretty outstanding. These footprints, along with the ones found at Laetoli, could be further evidence of early hominids walked upright before large brains had evolved…

But, I can’t help but wonder if the carbon dating will even work? The current maximum radiocarbon age limit lies in the range between 58,000 and 62,000 years (approximately 10 half-lives). This limit is encountered when the radioactivity of the residual 14C in a sample is too low to be distinguished from the background radiation. Maybe another dating technique would be more useful?

13 thoughts on “A Three Million Year Old Hominid Footprint Found in Siwa, Egypt

  1. If the plant material comes back with a young date – within the range of RC dating, for example – it could indicate the footprints are young as well. Other than that I can’t see any reason to use RC dating.

  2. Yeah, it just seems like radiocarbon ain’t the right way to go with this finding… Radiocarbon will tell them it maybe younger but if they are shooting for something in the millions of years then the plant material will not have much carbon left. I wonder if the tuff that this footprint was found in has other chemicals that could be dated, like argon-argon?

  3. The article may be using the expression “carbon dating” as a catchall phrase that the general public might understand more easily. Anyway footprints two million years old are hardly surprising.

  4. If the BBC reporter or the people quoted used carbon dating as a catchall phrase then they made a serious screw up. There are big differences between the different dating techniques, and using one as if it is interchangeable is unprofessional for both an academic and a journalist. They shoulda done their research before they put something out there like that.

    Aside from that, two million year old footprints are surprising, especially since the ones being documented are found in Egypt. To the best of my knowledge, Egypt has not yet yielded such evidence of hominid occupation at that time period. The earliest date we can for certain say of early hominids in Egypt 700,000 years ago.

  5. Kambiz wrote:

    “The earliest date we can for certain say of early hominids in Egypt 700,000 years ago.”

    But hominids must have passed through there long before that. They show up in the Caucasus region by nearly two million years ago and in SE Asia not long after. Presumably they had moved through Egypt although, like Moses, they may have crossed the Red Sea at a time of lowered sea level.

    I agree using carbon dating as a catchall phrase shows poor research but creationist literature uses it all the time for that purpose.

  6. Very true, Terry. Hominids most likely past thru Egypt well before 700,000 years ago, but to the best of my knowledge, Egypt paleoanthropology isn’t as thorough, as other parts of Africa, Middle East, Europe, and Asia. And I’ll state what the record shows me, and not what the record should be telling me… in otherwords, I can run on assumptions and implications. I will disclaim that I could be wrong on the 700,000 date, though.

  7. But Kambiz. The result is that, as I said originally, footprints two million year old in Egypt are hardly surprising. However they are interesting in that they confirm a suspicion.

  8. Hi guys.

    The footprint shown in some articles around the Internet looks suspiciously similar to the Glen Rose “footprint” found in Cretaceous strata, in central Texas:

    Charlie

  9. Wow, can’t even have a basic scientific discussion without someone bringing up creationism and all that hooey, and then there’s even a link to the bogus Glen Rose “footprints”. Now I’m sure the person linked the Glen Rose footprint photo to debunk other photos circulating, and the poster who mentioned creationism wasn’t necessarily promoting it. But isn’t it amazing how this religious claptrap finds its way into virtually any supposedly scientific discussion these days? Who cares how the creationists misuse scientific terms? That’s exactly what they intend to do. Don’t give them the press by even mentioning them.

  10. Hi guys
    I`m sure that the photo of the footprint shown in some articles around the Internet is not from Siwa , and soon the results will come out .
    (a member of the teem discovered the Sia foot prints)

  11. Hello,

    I recently traveled to Siwa, without having any knowledge about the discovery of the oldest foodprint there. The local guide brought us in the desert west to Siwa, near the Libyan border. On the way to lake Shiata, we stopped in the middle of the desert where there was a rocky mountain with footprints. The local guide could not explain what they were. After my return, I searched in the internet and saw articles about this discovery. But I doubt what I saw was the footprints on the news because I also saw some graphics on the rocks besides the footprints looks similar to hieroglyph (but not exactly the same).
    Can please somebody explan what I saw there? What is exactly the location of the 3 million year old footprints? What is the update on that news? I do not have a website to show the photos I took so I do not know how to share the photos…

    1. What u have seen is the Siga mountain, its around 30 km from the Libyan Borders, most probably it’s the claimed 3 million years old footprint, if so its not a new discovery at all, locales knew about it long time ago, 10 years ago it has what looked like a complicated rectangular stone carved calendar or a complicated kind of a stone game like X/O this is why it has the name Siga mountain, the carving no longer exist as its destroyed by some ignorant that start digging on it thinking that their r a treasure hidden under it.

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