Scientists have discovered human footprints thought to be 300,000 years old and the earliest ever found in Germany.
Experts believe the perfectly-preserved prints were left by a family of Heidelberg people, a long-extinct species of human.
The footprints were discovered in the Schöningen Paleolithic site in the Harz Mountains.
Ancient animal prints, including the first evidence of elephants in the region, were also found at the site.
The Heidelberg people, formally known as Homo heidelbergensis, were the first humans known to build homes and routinely hunt large animals.
They were identified in both Africa and western Eurasia from roughly 700,000 years ago onwards until around 200,000 years ago.
The footprint discovery was made by an international research team including scientists from the University of Tübingen in Germany.
Lead author of the study, Dr Flavio Altamura, said: “For the first time, we conducted a detailed investigation of the fossil footprints from two sites in Schöningen.
“Among the prints are three tracks that match hominin footprints – with an age of about 300,000 years, they are the oldest human tracks known from Germany and were most likely left by Homo heidelbergensis.
“Based on the tracks, including those of children and juveniles, this was probably a family outing rather than a group of adult hunters.”
Dr Altamura said the findings confirm that the extinct human species “dwelled on lake or river shores with shallow water”.
“Depending on the season, plants, fruits, leaves, shoots, and mushrooms were available around the lake,” he added.
The team also analysed a series of tracks thought to be those of Palaeoloxodon antiquus, an extinct species of elephant and the largest land animal of the period.
The creatures had straight tusks and adult bulls weighed up to 12 tonnes.
The latest discovery comes after evidence of human footprints that were than 800,000 years old were found in 2014 on the Norfolk coast.
This story originally appeared on Skynews