LA PAZ – The Bolivian community of Sullkatiti has recovered what is considered the world’s oldest human footprint set in stone – which could be some 15 million years old – after it was apparently stolen to be sold in Peru, an official said Friday.
“History’s oldest human footprint marked in stone dates back to between 5 million and 15 million years ago,” Bolivian Foreign Minister Fernando Huanacuni posted on Twitter.
The foreign minister said the indigenous community “will protect this historical item” and hailed its recovery with a “ˇJallalla Bolivia!” – a term that expresses celebration in the Aymara and Quechua languages.
Huanacuni returned the stone to indigenous leaders at an event held Thursday night at the Bolivian Foreign Ministry in La Paz, to be returned to Jesus de Machaca, a Bolivian city near Lake Titicaca, close to where it was found in the mountains at an altitude of some 4,000 meters (13,000 feet).
The discovery was exhibited in La Paz in 2008 but was later stolen, and an attempt is believed to have been made to sell it in Peru. It was recovered six years later.
Though its exact age has not yet been scientifically determined, it is estimated to date back to the Miocene Epoch, which would mean that humans existed on Earth earlier than believed up to now.
The coordinator of the Diplomatic Academy of Bolivia, Jorge Miranda, said during the presentation event that the footprint is “the most perfect found on the planet to date,” the Bolivian News Agency (ABI) reported.
“It was certainly removed between 2011 and 2012 and disappeared. All the investigations show that someone was trying to sell it in Peru and...we were able to recover the footprint. That’s why we can now return it to its place of origin,” Miranda said.