A re-analysis of Chibanian Pleistocene tracks from Vértesszőlős, Hungary, employing photogrammetry and 3D analysis

Ikuko Tanaka, András Markó, Masayuki Hyodo, Catherine E. Strickson, Peter L. Falkingham


The Vértesszőlős quarry, the Palaeolithic site where the “Samu” hominin fossil remains (Homo heidelbergensis) were found, is located in North West Hungary. The site is dated between the Early and Middle Pleistocene (ca. 310 ka). A short distance from where the Samu remains were found is an exposed surface of calcareous mudstone, preserving numerous fossil tracks made by a range of mammals and birds. Of particular interest are three elongate impressions - two potentially successive and one isolated. These tracks have previously been referred to either hominin or ursine trackmakers. Since bear pes tracks can superficially resemble human tracks, we attempted to discern the 3D morphology of the traces using digital photogrammetry. Our analysis suggests the isolated impression is likely the product of two superimposed tracks of a cloven hoofed ungulate. However, the two potentially successive tracks are more problematic. The highly weathered surface (first exposed in the 1960’s) has made interpretation difficult. Both impressions seem to possess a narrow, rounded end similar to the posterior heel margin of a human track. At the anterior end the impressions are broader, and bounded by smaller impressions that could be interpreted as toe marks. However, these two tracks differ considerably in their length/width ratios and are too widely spaced to be part of a single bipedal trackway. It is conceivable that one or both of these impressions may be highly weathered hominin tracks. However, given the highly weathered nature of the exposed surface, and the lack of morphological detail in the tracks, we cannot at this time confidently attribute the tracks to any specific trackmaker, despite our digital models of the tracks which provide a relatively objective means of analysis independent of prior assumptions.

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