The 82nd Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2013)

Ancient footprints in Ciur-Izbuc Cave, Romania: Preservation and Re-analysis


1Dept. of Anthropology, Kutztown University, 2"Emil Racovitza" Institute of Speleology, Romanian Academy

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In 1965, Ciur-Izbuc Cave in the western Carpathian Mountains of Romania was discovered to contain nearly 200 ancient human footprints. At that time, primary researchers interpreted the footprints to be those of a man, a woman and a child who entered the cave by an opening which is now blocked but which was usable in antiquity. The age of the prints was based partly on their association with cave bear footprints and bones, and the belief that cave bears became extinct near the end of the last ice age.

Since their discovery, the human and bear evidence and the cave itself have attracted spelunkers and other tourists, so that the ancient footprints are in danger of destruction by modern humans. In an effort to conserve the footprints and information about them and to reanalyze them with modern techiques, Ciur-Izbuc Cave was restudied in 2012.

Modern results are based on fewer than 25% of the originally described human footprints, the rest having been destroyed. It is impossible to confirm some of the original conclusions. The footprints do not cluster about three different sizes, and the number of individuals cannot be known. Two cases of bears apparently overprinting humans help establish antiquity. However, insufficient footprints remain to determine stride lengths, lines of progression, or foot angles. Detailed 3-D mapping of the footprints does allow a more precise description of human movements within the cave.

For discoveries of such natural treasures, we recommend the most thorough scientific analysis possible at the outset, especially where land usage rights do not permit restricted access to them.

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