CU Denver anthropology students enjoy 'dream come true,' attempt to find more historic hominid footprints

University Communications

NORTHERN TANZANIA – Early light spills across the vast grassland that, for centuries, has been walked only by animals and nomadic Masai tribes. The only sound and movement comes courtesy of modern man. Several trucks boil dust as they rumble over the savannah.

A string of mysterious footprints in a geologic layer has drawn nine University of Colorado Denver and two Texas A&M anthropology students to this land. On a crisp and clear July morning — winter on this side of the equator — they pull up to Laetoli, one of the world’s most important fossil sites.

CU Denver students digging in the Olduvai Gorge fossil site
(Photo: CU Denver anthropology students Tracey Lancaster, left, and Elicia Abella dig in the research trench at the Laetoli fossil site. They are looking for more hominid footprints that date back 3.6 million years.)

The students lather on sunscreen, lace up boots and prepare for another day of work at their place of worship. While most northern Tanzania visitors come for the region’s teeming wildlife, the CU Denver researchers — a mix of graduate and undergraduate students — are here to uncover ancient treasure. They hope to discover what the fossils can tell us about the story of mankind.