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Re: "Human" & dino prints
IN refards to the recent posts by DLarin and Sharon Cronin on the Texas
"man"/dinosaur footprint controversy.
I spent over fifteen years of my life researching this controversy as
well as doing serious field work on the tracks in Glen Rose, and was
intimately involved in the resolution of the controversy through a
number of pubished articles. I will soon post a list of key articles
on this topic, as well as make detailed summaries of the controversy
available through snail mail (and eventually an Internet site).
Most of Sharon Cronin's comments were correct as far as they went,
except that she mentioned only two types of "man tracks"--forgeries and
dinosaur tracks. The alleged human tracks actually involved indistinct
or distorted metarsal dinosaur tracks, erosional markings, carbings,
and a few other spurious marks, listed here in order of their
commonness and importance in the controversy.
Although often cited by critics as a major explanation for the Glen
Rose claims, carved tracks have actually played only a MINOR role in
the controversy. Most of the carved tracks (only about 6 well
documented) were done on loose slanbs of rock, not in the riverbed.
All but one of these share the same artistic stype and appear to have
been made by a Glen Rose resident in the 1930's who thought he was
making improved replicas of the "real" mantrachs in the riverbed, which
do not show distinct human feaures.
More of the alleged tracks are due to erosional features (often
karren solution puts and such) and other indsitinct markings which were
mistaken for human tracks. However, this too seems to have been a
development that sprang from a much more common (and for many years
problematic) source of the human track claims, described below.
The majority of the alleged "giant man tracks" in the Paluxy
Riverbed (Glen Rose, Texas) are actually elongate dinosaur tracks, or
more precisely metatarsal (metapodial) dinosaur tracks. These are made
by certain theropods which at times impressed their metatarsi (soles
and heels) as they walked, making elongate impressions. When the digit
marks are indistict (due to erosion, mud collapse, or other factors),
or infilled with secondary sediment) the remaining portion at the
posterior often superficially resembles a large human footprint.
Unfortuantely for the human track advocates, when one cleans the
substrate well, and follows the trails long enough, there are traces of
the tridactyl dinosaurian digit pattern on many of the trails they have
called "human." Until my work documenting this phenomena in the early
1980's, which I continued and extended in the mid 1980's in
collaboration with Ron Hastings, such metatarsal tracks were largely
unknown. Now they are recognized from many sites not only in Texas and
other parts of the US, but throughout the world. The reason some
dinosaurs at times made metatarsal tracks is still uncertain, but as I
indicated in a previous post, it might relate to a behavior in which
the dinosaurs lowered their body while walking, perhaps while foraging
or stalking prey.
At any rate, such metatarsal tracsk are now well documented and do
account for the majority of the Texas Man track claims (and probably
the origin of the initial man track claims around 1980).
After the publciation of detailed evidence on this phenomenon and
other types of misidentified "man tracks" between 1982 and 1986, most
creationist leaders backbeddled from their former claims on the issue
and no longer cite the tracks as evidence against evolution. ALso, ICR
(perhaps the most influential creationist group) pulled one of their
popular books on the topic (J. Morris _Tracking Those Incredible
Dinosaurs_), and a popular creationist film promoting the tracks for
years (Footprints in Stone) was likewise discontinued. However, in
their public statements on the issue afterward most creationist leaders
stopped short of a full or frank retraction (characterizing the man
prints as "in doubt"). And a few persistent individuals such as Carl
Baugh (addressed previously) continue to actively promote the human
track claims and others equally dubious if not more so. Because of
this, as well as some of the literature still circulating on the issue,
the human track claims come up in schools and forums like this from
time to time. If anyone knows the name and address of the teacher that
DLarin mentioned, please let me know so that I may send her some
information on the issue.
For years I also have been preparing a detailed history of the
entire controversy in book form, which will include detailed site maps.
I am ashamed to say is long overdue, but it will eventually be
available. There is, however, plenty of information on the controversy
in article form, which I will make available to readers here.
Until I get a change to post the references, readers may find a
very good summary of the track controversy and related creationist
claims in the book _Science and Earth History_ by Arthur Strahler,
published by Prometueus Books (in a chapter on alleged out-of-order
fossils). I also invite readers to contact me directly with any
further questions or comments on this issue.
Glen J. Kuban