In the Hive

Chance discovery of ancient footprints extends our understanding of Utah’s human history

Fossil human footprints from about 12,000 years ago in Utah’s West Desert (Dr. Daron Duke)

In early July, Dr. Daron Duke, an archaeologist who does field work on the the U.S. Military’s Utah Test and Training Range was driving inside the base with a colleague, a research scientist from Cornell University named Dr. Thomas Urban. As they slowly crossed the dry playa in their truck, the two were discussing the possibility of finding fossil human footprints in the area, something Dr. Urban had experience with (just a year ago Urban made an astounding discovery of fossil prints in White Sands National Park, New Mexico, which pushed back the clock on the human history of the Americas).

The topic at hand during the drive: what fossil footprints look like and how to spot them.

Looking out the window, Dr. Urban caught a glimpse of something and said “they kind of look like that.”

That day, the two researchers had stumbled across human footprints that are likely 12,000 years old — some of the earliest evidence of humans in what is today the state of Utah.

Today on “In the Hive,” what that discovery can tell us about the human history of Utah’s Great Basin and beyond.

Dr. Daron Duke, archaeologist with Far Western Anthropological Research Group

In the Hive
From local politics, to arts and culture, to history, the environment and beyond, “In the Hive” explores the issues and ideas that tie Utah together. Produced by KCPW Studios
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