There’s an interesting little item in the news today: paleoanthropologists have found Homo Erectus footprints 1.5 million years old that record the earliest known example of anatomically modern human feet — feet that are designed solely (so to speak) for walking, and not for grasping.
It is hard to imagine anything more evanescent than a footprint left in the mud, yet these have lasted 150 times as long as the entire span of recorded history. Think of all the forgotten generations that have lived and died and turned to dust, and more recently the empires that have risen, triumphed and fallen, while those fragile impressions — nothing at all, really, just some wet feet on a rainy day — slumbered in the stone. It must be an eerie feeling to walk in them.
Meanwhile, new analytical tools are making it possible for linguists to identify the oldest words still in use, and to make predictions about which ones will last. Learn more here.