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Intertidal Footprints EarthCache

Hidden : 06/09/2009
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Geocache Description:

THIS IS NOT EASY - you have been warned! It is a genuine difficulty 5. THIS EARTH CACHE WILL NOT BE COMPLETED BY GOING TO THE POSTED CO-ORDINATES! What is here one day is not here the next.

Walking his dog along Formby beach one day, retired teacher Gordon Roberts noticed some unusual trails of footprints on an exposed patch of silt. His curiosity aroused, he began to take notes, then pictures, then plaster casts and careful measurements. Soon he found that the prints were thousands of years old, and over the following months and years he's recorded the tracks of deer, extinct wild cattle, large birds, and people - in particular, children.

Hint - Gordon Roberts showing how the edge of one layer of sediment is eroded by the sea, revealing the footprint in the lower (and older) layer

But these aren't rock-hard fossils. They were baked into the silt and covered with sand and later deposits which have protected them ever since. Now erosion is uncovering these ancient silts, but what the sea reveals it also destroys - the footprints last only until the next high tide or a few weeks at most once exposed.

Gordon calls it "ephemeral archaeology". Or "extreme archaeology" because he goes out in all weathers, accompanied as always by his dog Kim, to record these fleeting remnants of prehistoric life before they disappear for ever.

Coastal erosion has revealed the sub-fossil footprints of humans (adult and child), animals (aurochs, cattle, red deer, roe deer, unshod horse, dog / wolf, wild boar, sheep / goat) and wading birds (crane, oystercatcher and rail) preserved in late-Holocene, laminated silt exposures in this GENERAL AREA.

Most of the footprints are located in the intertidal zone. Stratigraphic evidence, supported by Carbon-14 and Optically- Stimulated Luminescence dating, indicates that they are late- Mesolithic to mid-Neolithic in origin. However, a higher, dune- edge peat stratum contains the imprints of Iron Age domestic oxen.

5,000-year-old footprint of an adolescent human

In the context of a time frame extending back some 3.75 million years within a variety of environments, and given the considerable number of archæological and palæontological investigations that take place worldwide, it is remarkable that, to date, only 63 sites have ever revealed hominid footprints.

And of these locations, Formby Point has yielded the greatest number of prehistoric, human footprint trails.

This is essentially a simple earth cache -

A : Find and photograph a neolithic footprint. It doesn't have to be human, it can be from any of the species listed above, but it has to be historical.

B : Photograph the laminated edges showing a variety of ages, and attempt to name the deposited materials.

Undertaking this earth cache will require a severe amount of either research, time or extreme good fortune. Good luck!


Additional Hints (No hints available.)