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Human footprint variation while performing load bearing tasks

Wall-Scheffler, C.M.; Wagnild, J.; Wagler, E.

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C.M. Wall-Scheffler

E. Wagler


Human footprint fossils have provided essential evidence about the evolution of human bipedalism as well as the social dynamics of the footprint makers, including estimates of speed, sex and group composition. Generally such estimates are made by comparing footprint evidence with modern controls; however, previous studies have not accounted for the variation in footprint dimensions coming from load bearing activities. It is likely that a portion of the hominins who created these fossil footprints were carrying a significant load, such as offspring or foraging loads, which caused variation in the footprint which could extend to variation in any estimations concerning the footprint’s maker. To identify significant variation in footprints due to load-bearing tasks, we had participants (N = 30, 15 males and 15 females) walk at a series of speeds carrying a 20kg pack on their back, side and front. Paint was applied to the bare feet of each participant to create footprints that were compared in terms of foot length, foot width and foot area. Female foot length and width increased during multiple loaded conditions. An appreciation of footprint variability associated with carrying loads adds an additional layer to our understanding of the behavior and morphology of extinct hominin populations.


Wall-Scheffler, C., Wagnild, J., & Wagler, E. (2015). Human footprint variation while performing load bearing tasks. PLoS ONE, 10(3), Article e0118619.

Journal Article Type Article
Online Publication Date Mar 4, 2015
Publication Date Mar 4, 2015
Deposit Date Jun 17, 2016
Publicly Available Date Jul 13, 2016
Journal PLoS ONE
Publisher Public Library of Science
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 10
Issue 3
Article Number e0118619


Published Journal Article (1.6 Mb)

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Copyright Statement
© 2015 Wall-Scheffler et al. This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

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