Greater Ancestors

World Museum

Giant Prints. Carson, Nevada


The Foot-Prints of a Mastodon and of a Human Being Believed to be Imprinted in the Same Rock.

From the San Francisco (Cal.) Call, Aug. 4.

The discovery of tracks in the quarry at the state prison at Carson, Nev., created quite a flutter among the local scientists and brought up several eminent gentlemen from California to examine them critically. Dr. Harkness brought materials for taking photographs and also traces of them on canvas showing their direction and mutual relations. They will be poured full of plaster-of-paris and exact casts made of them.

Professor Le Conte, of the State University of California, spent some time in examining the tracks, and he informs the Reno Gazette that while they are very interesting, they teach nothing new. There are the tracks of the mammoth and another track which he thinks is that of a man. He says some persons are entirely convinced that they are human, but he is more cautious. While he believes them to be so, still, there are doubts. The track is so large, being nearly 20 inches, that it seems impossible that any human being ever lived with a foot capable of making such an imprint. If it was a foot, it was wrapped up in something soft and pliable or wore a sandal of some sort. The peculiar outline of the human foot is distinct. The curved outside, the heel bending inward, the broad ball and wide front, with the inward curve at the hollow on the inside of the foot, are still there.

The professor says he looked carefully to see if it could be the footprint of a bear or some animal but found no marks of claws or toes, which would be a part of a bear track. He tried to imagine an animal which stepped with his hind foot into the tracks of his forefoot and made such an impression, but he found nothing to indicate it. Being asked if it might be a foot wrapped in bark or skins as a defense against cold, he thought not because if it was cold, the mud would be frozen and there would have been no impression. It could hardly be that the foot was wrapped to keep the body from pressing it into the mud, as snowshoes are worn, for then the outline of the foot would not be preserved. On the whole, the human track is a puzzle. One thing remarkable about it is the distance between the lines of the tracks made by the right and left foot, (the straddle,) which is about eighteen inches. The length of the stride is that of a common man, being less than three feet, but the size of the foot and the distance between them were those of a giant.

It will be considered carefully by men of science, and no doubt more light will come. The track of the mammoth is about such a one as would be made by the one in Prof. Ward’s collection now on exhibition in San Francisco. The professor thinks the prints were probably made in the soft mud on the bank, perhaps near the mouth of a river, and soon after a spring flood came down and spread a layer of sand on them, which was followed in years by the large deposit which became the rock now seen there. The professor assigns the tracks to a period at least as far back as the glacial epoch and thinks perhaps they belong to the Pliocene. There seems to be no great significance in the fact of finding human tracks (if they are human) with those of the mammoth because it has been long known that man appeared on earth before the mammoth became extinct. Still, the discovery is very interesting to science and may lead to important results.

  2. Evening star., August 26, 1882, Page 2, Image 2