Paluxy River footprints

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Tridactyler (three-toed) footprint of a theropod ( Acrocanthosaurus )

The Paluxy River Footprints are fossil prints of dinosaurs in the river bed of the Paluxy River near Glen Rose , Texas , in the United States . The Glen Rose Formation consists of alternating layers of limestone , marl and sandstone .

The track fossils ( Ichnia ) include three- toed footprints that come from predatory dinosaurs ( theropods ) and columnar footprints that come from sauropods . A species-specific assignment of the footprints is not possible, since the footprints of related species can look the same. Keith Young concluded, based on the stratification sequence of the ammonites, that the rocks of the Glen Rose Formation come from the Upper Aptian and Lower Albian of the Lower Cretaceous , i.e. 115-105 million years old. Based on the fossils of dinosaurs from the same time and area, and the shape and size of the trace fossils, it is believed that the three-toed footprints may have been from the predatory dinosaur Acrocanthosaurus and the columnar footprints from the sauropod Paluxysaurus .

The meaning of the Paluxy River footprints is that one track shows the pursuit of a sauropod by a predatory dinosaur ( Paluxy River Dinosaur Chase Sequence ) and another track shows the trotting of a herd of sauropods, with the juveniles in the middle and the Keep old animals at the edge, which indicates that the young animals are protected by the old animals.

The footprints on the Paluxy River were first discovered in 1908/1909 and correctly identified as dinosaur tracks by the headmaster Robert E. McDonald. However, the thorough scientific investigation of the tracks did not take place until 1940 by RT Bird.

The predatory dinosaur's weathered three-toed footprints can sometimes look like human footprints. If a marginal toe is not clearly indented, the other two toes may look like the big toe and foot. From such human foot-like trace fossils, creationists have concluded that humans and dinosaurs lived at the same time. Of course, this is not the case. Similar changes in the shape and size of tracks can also be observed in tracks in the snow that become plump and wide when exposed to sunlight.

Discovery and investigation of the tracks


The Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park , near Glen Rose , Texas, United States

The preoccupation with the footprints goes back to the year 1908. Heavy rains caused floods at that time, whereby massive limestone slabs were torn out of the river bed and partly broke. It was only through these events that the dinosaur footprints were exposed.

The following spring, teenage boy George Adams found a number of three-toed footprints in a stream bed in a tributary of the Paluxy River, known as the Wheeler Branch . The local school principal Robert E. McDonald identified these as dinosaur footprints. Subsequent research revealed that the three-toed, claw-like prints were from two-legged and carnivorous theropods (possibly Acrocanthosaurus , whose bones were found just a few miles away).

Approx. In 1910, local teenagers Charlie Moss and his brother Grady also came across three-toed footprints on the Paluxy River. They also found a number of strange, elongated prints (approx. 38 to 45 cm in size), which were previously completely unknown to geologists and which Charlie Moss described as originating from "giant men". Locals mistook them for human footprints. Most of the inhabitants were not aware of the consequences such a discovery would have on the previous understanding of the geological time scale , since there is a period of about 60 million years between the extinction of the dinosaurs and the appearance of the first humans. Today these traces are estimated to be around 113 million years old.

In the 1930s, Jim Ryals from Glen Rose began to cut some of the footprints (including some of the "human" ones, whose whereabouts are still unknown) from the stone in order to sell them. At around the same time, George Adams (who discovered the tracks in the Wheeler Branch ) was selling tracks of alleged "giant people" carved in loose stones. George's nephew Wayland later reported to a group of “creationist researchers” that his uncle was looking for large stones with an existing indentation and using them in his free time to make human-looking prints. His “human footprints” still remaining today all show serious anatomical inaccuracies, such as incorrectly placed balls of the feet and arches as well as excessively long and deformed toes. According to today's understanding, Adams and Ryals had more economic than ideological motives. In addition, the artificially chiseled outwardly have little to do with the supposedly human prints in the Paluxy River bed.

First scientific investigation

Theropod footprint in Dinosaur Valley State Park

In 1938, while on a field expedition in Gallup , New Mexico , the paleontologist Roland T. Bird discovered some of the fabricated footprints and recognized them as fakes. Nevertheless, he decided to investigate the matter and, with the help of some local experts, found several real three-toed (theropod) prints in the river bed of the Paluxy River. After further investigation, he quickly found much larger and sauropod-derived prints that were previously completely unknown. Only Charlie Moss and a few local residents discovered them earlier, but interpreted them as "coming from very old elephants" ("ancient elephants"). When Bird first introduced the sauropod footprints in National Geographic and Natural History , they attracted great public interest.

Although Bird never reported any real "human footprints", rumors quickly arose that fossil human footprints actually existed next to those of dinosaurs in the Paluxy River. In one of his articles, Bird merely mentioned that the man-made "footprints" were the reason for his trip to Glen Rose, as were the prints that locals said were "giant people". In addition, rumors circulated among the locals about huge footprints in the Paluxy River. Bird turned to Jim Ryals, but he was only able to show him one of these footprints, which Bird describes as "something about 15 inches long, with a curious elongated heel" and, in his opinion, comes from a "previously unknown dinosaur or reptile".

Creationists discover the footprints for themselves

One of the first creationists to get excited about the Paluxy River footprints was Clifford Burdick. He is a co-founder of the Deluge Society , one of the first creationist groups in the United States. After a brief tour of the Paluxy River, Burdick published an article in the Seventh-day Adventist magazine Signs of the Times claiming that the Paluxy River bed clearly contained human and dinosaur footprints. This discovery fundamentally refutes the theory of evolution and is proof of a “divine creation” and of the existence of a flood as described in the Bible . He tried to back up his testimony with photos of "human footprints" on loose stones, which Bird, however, previously exposed as falsifications.

In the early 1960s, the “human” footprints in the Paluxy River became even more popular. Photos of the same loose stones with the unnatural-looking footprints appeared in the creationist book The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry M. Morris . They also assumed that these slabs of rock contained the footprints of "giant people". A few years later, AE Wilder-Smith visited the Paluxy River at Burdick's invitation. In 1965 he published his book Mans Origin, Man's Destiny , in which he also reported clearly human footprints.

Shortly after the book was published, Stanley Taylor - a Baptist pastor and owner of an apologetic film company - became aware of the footprints. He planned to make a film about the Paluxy River footprints, whereupon he started several expeditions between 1968 and 1972. He found several elongated footprints, which he interpreted as being human and featured in the 1972 film Footprints in Stones . Taylor advocated the existence of human footprints, suggesting that some might even have human toes. The film focused on the area of ​​the Paluxy River now known as the Taylor Site and was shown in US churches and schools for many years.

Ironically, a creationist working group (including Berney Neufeld) came to a very different conclusion at the time. They suggested that the tracks were from two-legged dinosaurs, as many of the elongated tracks suggested the presence of toes. The alleged human footprints in State Park Ledge are ultimately not footprints at all, but eroded rock. This rock had different patterns that were highlighted with water and oil to reinforce the impression of footprints. Other creationists were also skeptical. Regardless of the evidence, the Paluxy River footprints continued to be used as evidence against the theory of evolution. The Bible Science Association and the Institute for Creation Research endorsed the "human" footprint in books, articles and radio broadcasts.

Fossils in the Paluxy River and the surrounding area

Dinosaur tracks in the bed of the Paluxy River

The Glen Rose Formation contains numerous fossils and fossilized dinosaur footprints. The most famous of these are found in the riverbed of the Paluxy River in Dinosaur Valley State Park near the town of Glen Rose. The Paluxy River and its surroundings contain many fossils and dinosaur tracks, from both sauropods and theropods . The latter in particular were incorrectly interpreted as originating from humans in individual cases, since the characteristic three toes of a theropod were barely recognizable or not at all. This often happened through geological activities (erosion, sediment filling) over millions of years.

The Taylor Site is probably the most famous fossil site in the river bed of the Paluxy River, which is said to contain traces of humans. It contains a total of four tracks (called Taylor , Giant Run , Turnage and Ryals Trails ), which according to Morris and Taylor are said to have come from humans. Taylor also released a film on the same subject. The most famous “human” track consists of 15 prints that are elongated and have different steps. Other elongated tracks contain indistinct features (very slight indentations or discoloration) of the dinosaur toes, which appear in several footprints at least in every track. Until 1980, the Taylor site was hardly studied by scientists. The reasons for this are the inaccessibility of the site, as it is usually under water and the reluctance to take the allegedly human footprints seriously. Glen Kuban began his work on the Taylor Site in 1980 and was able to show, together with Hastings, that it was the footprints of dinosaurs.

The so-called Alfred West Site is a site that has often been ignored by proponents of the thesis that it is a question of human footprints. It is located near the Carl Baughs Creation Evidence Museum . Much of the site is under water all year round, but the western part is dry in late summer. The Alfred West Site contains numerous dinosaur tracks. Some consist only of three-toed prints, which vary in size and depth, but most are about 25 to 45 cm long and the metatarsal bone is clearly visible. Some of the toes are clearly visible, others less so. These are reminiscent of human footprints, but are almost identical in size and proportions to the more visible traces. One of the tracks has a significantly larger step width, which suggests an unusual speed of around 10 m / s . Here it was also discovered that some dinosaurs changed their gait within the track; they alternated between sole and toe gait .

Another site on the Paluxy River became known as State Park Ledge . According to Taylor, it also has fossilized human footprints; other advocates of human footprints agreed. Allegedly there are also traces of children and bears there. However, studies have shown that these prints also originally contained three toes and came from theropods. In addition, none of the traces contain human traits.

The Baugh / McFall Site contains a series of tracks found in a limestone slab on the south bank of the Paluxy River. There are three-toed prints there, some of which are elongated in shape. In the 1960s and 1970s, creationists believed they were human. However, these prints were later ascribed to dinosaurs. The tracks are eroded and indistinct, but most contain features of elongated dinosaur footprints. The elongated step seals also contain indentations made by metatarsal bones that are just as deep as those of the toes and balls of the feet. Since 1982, more footprints have been uncovered, of which - according to Baugh - more than 50 are said to have been human. However, extensive studies could not support this thesis. Some traces - including a two-foot print that Baugh named Max - were apparently carved into the surface of the river bed. Other tread seals considered human are probably depressions created by erosion.

Loose fossils and artifacts

Loose stones with human-like prints first appeared in the late 1930s. At the time, many creationists argued that these were real. However, many of these traces showed anatomical inaccuracies. It was also known that “human” prints had previously been carved into stones and sold. As a result, most creationists at the time also rejected fossils as evidence against the theory of evolution . Carl Baugh - founder of the Creation Evidence Museum in Glen Rose - is an exception . He continues to take the view that some of the prints are actually made by humans. These alleged fossils include the so-called Delk Print and the Burdick Track . Not only does the latter have the problems already mentioned, but evidence has also been found that it was originally on the lower side of the rock slab.

The Delk Print appears to contain the three-toed footprint of a theropod and that of a human. However, CT scans suggest that the original impressions were less pronounced and were post-processed. In addition, the alleged prints show morphological irregularities. Neither the Burdick Track nor the Delk Print were found in situ .

There are also a number of other fossils that were interpreted by Carl Baugh and other creationists as an argument against the theory of evolution, but could not withstand scientific research: a human tooth and a finger, a trilobite from chalk , and a hammer. The tooth that was found in the Paluxy River in 1987 came from a fish, as Hastings was able to show. The trilobite was found in the river bed several decades earlier, not documented in situ and therefore cannot be clearly assigned to this rock layer. The hammer is contained in a concretion and comes from a Paleozoic formation near London, Texas. It was also not found in situ and therefore cannot be assigned to the surrounding rock. The fossilized finger, allegedly from a human, was found loosely in a gravel bed by Baugh, according to himself. It has a number of anatomical problems and it is therefore questionable whether it originated from a human at all. Like the previous fossils, it cannot be clearly assigned to any rock layer.

Paleontological findings

Scientific research has shown that the footprints found are around 113 million years old and all of them come from dinosaurs. Evidence of this was found in the Taylor Site , where the tracks are not only delimited by their topography, but even more clearly by blue-gray to rust-red discoloration. According to Kuban and Hastings, this discoloration clearly shows the outlines of the toes of a three-toed dinosaur even in the human-like traces. The discoloration is attributed to the sediment filling of the tracks shortly after their formation. Drill core samples from Kuban and Hastings confirmed this assumption, as two different types of sediment could be detected here. The second sediment filling, which is finer-grained, dolomitic and ferruginous than the surrounding rock, was enclosed in the original impression and hardened. However, after the tracks were exposed, the sediment fill began to erode and peel off. The rust-red discoloration is due to oxidation of the iron. The more these backfills now smell out of the track, the more the once distant human-like track is transformed back into the original dinosaur track. A track attributed to an ornithopod was also found .

In the meantime, traces of dinosaurs have been found outside the area around Paluxy, as well as traces with comparable characteristic sediment fillings.

However, the dinosaur tracks are also scientifically interesting because, according to Thomas & Farlow (1998), they could show scenes of a dinosaur hunt. The traces are dated in the Glen Rose Formation (Lower Cretaceous), i.e. on the border between the Aptium and the Albium, with an age of approx. 113 million years.

Origin of the "human" traces

Live reconstruction of Acrocanthosaurus

These tracks come from two-legged theropods (probably Acrocanthosaurus ). Under optimal circumstances, the three-toed impression is completely preserved. But geological activities such as erosion, sediment filling or the flowing back of mud into the footprint make the (relatively) filigree prints of the toes unrecognizable. The elongated tracks make it clear that dinosaurs not only walked on their toes, as previously assumed, but that some species at least partially touched the entire foot including the sole and heel. This can be proven by the occasional impressions of the metatarsal bone. One possible explanation for this behavior is that these dinosaurs assumed a crouched posture while foraging for food or stalking prey. It is possible that the theropods also put their entire foot on the ground in order to get a better grip in rough terrain. Some dinosaurs even changed their gait within a track.

It is important to note that the elongated tracks found are actually the imprint of metatarsal bones and not typical three-toed footprints that have lost their original shape. The interpretation that the feet of the dinosaurs are simply sunken can also be ruled out. The metatarsal was often fully developed, leaving as deep marks as the toes. This can be seen particularly well in the Alfred West Site .

Different interpretations

Since the initial discovery of alleged human footprints next step seals of dinosaurs in 1908 in the bed of the Paluxy Rivers appropriate findings of the Cretaceous period by individual authors from the environment of been up to the present time in different geological layers creationism and the Paleo-SETI hypothesis reported .


The suspected human traces were regularly discussed in creationist writings, especially in the 1970s, especially in the work of the Bible Science Association (BSA) and the Institute of Creational Research (ICR). In the meantime, the scientific evidence for the authorship of dinosaurs by American and German creationists is regarded as so solid that within creationism only a minority use the traces as a scientific argument against the theory of evolution . Answers in Genesis , an evangelical organization advocating young earth creationism , rejects the Paluxy River footprints as a possible argument against evolutionary theory.


From the perspective of the Paleo-SETI environment, the simultaneity of dinosaurs and humans is supposed to prove the presence of human-like carriers of an originally extraterrestrial culture in prehistoric times.

See also

Web links


  • GR Bergan, JG Pittman (Ed.): Nearshore Clastic Carbonate Facies and Dinosaur Trackways in the Glen Rose Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Central Texas. In: GSA Field Trip guidebook # 8. The Dallas Geological Society, Dallas, Texas 1990, ISBN 1-879325-01-2 .
  • Ronnie J. Hastings: New Observations on Paluxy Tracks Confirm Their Dinosaurian Origin. In: Journal of Geological Education. Vol. 35, No. 1 1987, pp. 4-15.
  • GJ Kuban: Elongate Dinosaur Tracks. In: David D. Gillette, Martin G. Lockley (Eds.): Dinosaur Tracks and Traces. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989, ISBN 0-521-36354-3 , pp. 57-72.
  • GJ Kuban: Color Distinctions and Other Curious Features of Dinosaur Tracks Near Glen Rose, Texas. In: David D. Gillette, Martin G. Lockley (Eds.): Dinosaur Tracks and Traces. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1989, ISBN 0-521-36354-3 , pp. 427-440.
  • S. Scherer, R. Wiskin: “Human” footprints in chalk: a lesson for creation research. (PDF; 198 kB) on: 1/1986, Baiersbronn.
  • DA Thomas, JO Farlow: Traces of a dinosaur hunt. In: Spectrum of Science. 2/1998, pp. 86-91.

Individual evidence

  1. Keith Young, Lower Albian and Aptian (Cretaceous) Ammonites of Texas, Geoscience and Man, Vol. VIII (1974)
  2. a b Keith P. Young, 1974, Lower Albian and Aptian (Cretaceous) ammonites of Texas, In: Perkins, BF, ed. Aspects of Trinity Geology: Geoscience and Man, School of Geoscience, Louisiana State University, Vol. 8, Pp. 175-228
  3. ^ A b Bergan, Gail R, and Jeffrey G. Pittman, eds., 1990, Nearshore Clastic Carbonate Facies and Dinosaur Trackways in the Glen Rose Formation (Lower Cretaceous) of Central Texas. GSA Field Trip # 8, The Dallas Geological Society, Dallas, Texas.
  4. a b Bird, Roland T., 1954, We Captured a Live Brontosaur. National Geographic. V. 105, pp. 707-722
  5. ^ A b c Morris, John D., 1980, Tracking Those Incredible Dinosaurs. San Diego, CA, Creation-Life Publishers, p. 240
  6. ^ A b Roland T. Bird, 1939, Thunder in His Footsteps. Natural history. Vol. 43, pp. 254-261
  7. ^ Bird, Roland T., 1941, A Dinosaur Walks into a Museum. Natural history. Vol. 47, pp. 74-81
  8. Bird, Roland T., 1944, Did Brontosaurus Ever Walk on Land? Natural history. Vol. 53, pp. 60-67
  9. a b c d e
  10. a b c Burdick, Clifford C., 1950, When Giants Roamed the Earth. Signs of the Times, July 25, pp. 6, 9.
  11. ^ A b Morris, Henry M., and John C. Whitcomb, 1961, The Genesis Flood, Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI, pp. 173-175.
  12. A. Ernest Wilder-Smith: Origin and future of the people. A critical overview of the scientific and spiritual principles underlying Darwinism and Christianity (= Telos-Taschenbuch, Volume 106), Evangelischer Schriftenverlag Schwengeler, 2nd edition Heerbrugg 1975, ISBN 37751-0070-9 , pp. 119–123
  13. Taylor, Stanley E., 1972, Footprints in Stone (film), Films for Christ Association (Eden Films)
  14. a b c Berney Neufeld: DINOSAUR TRACKS AND GIANT MEN. In: Origins. 2 1975, pp. 64-76.
  15. ^ Taylor, Stanley E., 1971. The Mystery Tracks in Dinosaur Valley. Bible-Science Newsletter. 9 (4): 1-7.
  16. Taylor, Stanley E., 1973, Footprints in Stone (film), Films for Christ Association (Eden Films)
  17. a b c d e f
  18. a b Kuban, Glen J., 1986b, Review of ICR Impact Article 151, Origins Research, Vol. 9, No. 1.
  19. a b c d Kuban, Glen J. 1986a, The Taylor Site Man Tracks. Origins Research, Vol. 9, No. 1, pp. 1-9.
  20. Hastings, Ronnie J., 1988, Rise and Fall of the Paluxy Man Tracks, Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith (Journal of the ASA), Vol. 40, No. 3, pp. 144-155.
  21. a b c d
  22. Beierle, Fred, 1977, Man, Dinosaurs, and History, Prosser, WA: Perfect Printing Co.
  23. ^ Dougherty, Cecil N., 1979 (sixth edition), Valley of the Giants, Bennett printing Company, Cleburne, TX.
  24. ^ Taylor, Stanley E., 1968, Search for Man Tracks in the Paluxy River, Films for Christ Special Report, October
  25. Baugh, Carl, 1982, Enemies Survived Together for A While (video tape), Creation Evidences Museum, Glen Rose, TX
  26. Baugh, Carl E., 1987, Dinosaur, Promise Publishing, Orange, CA.
  27. Cole, John R., and Laurie R. Godfrey, eds., 1985, Creation / Evolution, Issue 15, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 16-21
  29. a b
  31. Hastings, Ronnie J., 1987, New Observations on Paluxy Tracks Confirm Their Dinosaurian Origin, Journal of Geological Education, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 4-15.
  32. ^ Cole, John C., 1985, If I Had a Hammer, Creation / Evolution, Issue XV, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp. 46-47.
  35. ^ Hastings, Ronnie J., 1987a, New Observations on Paluxy Tracks Confirm Their Dinosaurian Origin. Journal of Geological Education, Vol. 35, No. 1, pp. 4-15.
  36. ^ Dougherty, Cecil N., 1979 (6th edition), Valley of the Giants. Bennett Printing Co., Cleburne, TX., P. 76
  37. Helfinstine, Robert F., and Jerry D. Roth, 1994, Texas Tracks and Artifacts .: Do Texas Fossils Indicate Coexistence of Men and Dinosaurs? P. 109
  38. Scherer & Wiskin 1986

Coordinates: 32 ° 15 '4.3 "  N , 97 ° 49' 7.6"  W.