Prehistoric footprints site, Uskmouth

Here the Wales Coast Path passes close to the spot where three sets of prehistoric human footprints were discovered in 1986. They were made by a child – a boy or a girl – and by two men. All three walked barefoot.

Analysis of peat fragments which lay on top of the footprints revealed that these three individuals had walked here at least 6,200 years ago, in the late Mesolithic era.

A mattock which was found 340 metres away from the footprints dates from around the same time. It was shaped from a piece of red deer antler and has a hole for a wooden handle. The hole is in an unusual position relative to the sharpened edge, indicating that the tool had a specialist use. It may have been used while gathering shellfish, such as cockles.

When the men and child left the footprints in the clay, they were probably walking across salt marsh to reach the mudflats. Trees such as lime, elm, hazel and pine may have grown on the marsh.

Mesolithic animal footprints found in the Uskmouth area were left by wading birds, aurochs and deer. Aurochs were ancestors of today’s domesticated cattle and became extinct in the 17th century.

A little west of the footprints site, archaeologists have identified remains of a prehistoric trackway – a 30-metre series of wooden planks. It’s thought that this dates from the Bronze Age or Iron Age, much later than the footprints.

Sources include Glamorgan-Gwent Archaeological Trust and ‘The Gwent County History, Volume 1’, edited by Miranda Aldhouse-Green and Ray Howell, University of Wales Press 2004

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