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Ancient Footprints Resurface in BU Lecture

8 February 2007

Footprint Professor Matthew Bennett will revisit the controversy surrounding ancient footprints found in Mexico during the next BU Lecture at 5.30pm today.

In 2005, when Professor Bennett announced that footprints he and colleagues had found in Mexico were evidence of the earliest humans in North America, a shockwave rippled throughout the scientific community.

Now, some two years later, he will bring the story of the ‘Oldest Americans’ up to date during an open lecture with news that further finds elsewhere in Mexico consolidate the original work.

“Our original announcement caused quite a stir in the media and proved just how great the divide is amongst the various theories on man’s occupation of North America,” says Professor Bennett.

“Nearly four years after our original find and with thanks, in part, to funding from the Natural Environment Research Council, the controversy continues.

Professor Matthew Bennett “My open lecture at Bournemouth University will probably help to fuel the fire even further as I bring the story right up to date with some preliminary findings from our latest trip."

“If nothing else, the work provides insight into the nature of academic debated and how new ideas are shaped by controversy”.

It was in September 2003 that Professor Bennett and scientists from Liverpool John Moores University first found footprints in an abandoned quarry 130 km southeast of Mexico City.

In 2005, after extensive study and dating of the material in which the footprints were found, the team publicly announced that the prints were around 40,000 years old.

This shattered previous theories on how and when humans first colonised the Americas.

Professor Bennett - Head of Environmental and Geographical Sciences at Bournemouth University’s School of Conservation Sciences - carried out detailed mapping and visualisation of the prints.

His scans were brought back to the University and reproduced as 3D physical models using a campus-based rapid proto-typing facility.

Footprint The 'Oldest Americans' research is considered as vitally important for the study of the settlement of the Americas as it provides extensively validated data that directly challenges current theories.

Since the original discovery and controversy on publication Professor Bennett has been involved in a programme of work to better understand the environmental context in which the footprints were found.

This work has shed new light on the palaeo-environment in which the footprints were formed.

In addition Professor Bennett has been working on other human footprint sites around the World with the aim of increasing our understanding of the information contained within a simple human footprint.

This work has involved developing new technology and methods to record and document human trace evidence.

Professor Matthew Bennett’s BU Lecture - ‘The Oldest Americans: Footprints from the Past’.

Thursday 22 February, 5.30 pm

Talbot Campus of Bournemouth University (exact location to be confirmed).

The lecture is preceded at 4.45 pm with light refreshments.

Both the lecture and refreshments are free of charge.

All are welcome and encouraged to attend.

For further information and pre-booking, please phone (01202) 961032 / 061033 or email

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