Tracking late Pleistocene Neandertals on the Iberian coast
Here, we report the recent discovery of 87 Neandertal footprints on the Southwest of the Iberian Peninsula (Doñana shoreline, Spain) located on an upper Pleistocene aeolian littoral setting (about 106 ± 19 kyr). Morphometric comparisons, high resolution digital photogrammetric 3D models and detailed sedimentary analysis have been provided to characterized the footprints and the palaeoenvironment. The footprints were impressed in the shoreline of a hypersaline swamped area related to benthic microbial mats, close to the coastline. They have a rounded heel, a longitudinal arch, relatively short toes, and adducted hallux, and represent the oldest upper Pleistocene record of Neandertal footprints in the world. Among these 87 footprints, 31 are longitudinally complete and measure from 14 to 29 cm. The calculated statures range from 104 to 188 cm, with half of the data between 130 and 150 cm. The wide range of sizes of the footprints suggests the existence of a social group integrated by individuals of different age classes but dominated, however, by non-adult individuals. The footprints, which are outside the flooded area are oriented perpendicular to the shoreline. These 87 footprints reinforce the ecological scenario of Neandertal groups established in coastal areas.