Ghostly footprints perfectly from 12,000 years ago found at US Air Force base

A research group has made an impressive accidental discovery at a US Air Force base in Utah.

Ancient "ghost" footprints, dating back approximately 12,000 years, were discovered during a survey of the ground at the Test and Training Range in Utah's West Desert.

The archaeological impressions have been called 'ghost footprints' due to their elusive nature – only becoming visible after rainfall, with the resulting moisture causing them to turn a darker colour and reveal themselves.

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Researchers first happened upon the footprints on the way to a more established archaeological site at the Hill Air Force Base in Utah's Great Salt Lake Desert, the Mirror reports.

Anya Kitterman, Cultural Resource Manager at the Department of Defense, said the prints were a "once-in-a-lifetime discovery".

She added: "We found so much more than we bargained for".

While the group only found a few prints at first, they began a more thorough investigation, eventually finding all 88 of the footprints.

Researchers believe they may have belonged to a multi-generational family, as the footprints vary in size and it is guessed that the humans they belong to also varied in age.

Daron Duke from Far Western Anthropological Research Group, who was part of the research team that discovered the impressive prints, said the find was an important "insight" into the "daily life of a family group thousands of years ago".

He said: "Based on excavations of several prints, we’ve found evidence of adults with children from about 5 to 12 years of age that were leaving bare footprints.

"People appear to have been walking in shallow water, the sand rapidly infilling their print behind them – much as you might experience on a beach — but under the sand was a layer of mud that kept the print intact after infilling."

Researchers are hoping to preserve the footprints and protect them against extreme weather conditions that could threaten their perfect preservation.

Infill has been collected from the prints, meaning that scientists can begin a carbon dating process to determine the age of the prints.

The Far Western Anthropological Research Group also plan to speak to Native American groups to learn about their perspectives on the prints.

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