What may be the oldest fossil footprint yet found was discovered in June of 1968 by William J. Meister, an amateur fossil collector. This print is estimated to be around 300 to 600 MILLION years old!
A sandaled shoe crushing a trilobite; is this proof that there were previous civilisations on earth, or visitors from another world? Meister made this remarkable find during a rock and fossil hunting expedition to Antelope Spring, 43 miles west of Delta, Utah. He was accompanied by his wife and two daughters. The party had already discovered several small fossils of trilobites when Meister split open a two inch thick slab of rock with his hammer and discovered this outstanding print.
The rock fell open ``like a book", revealing on one side the footprint of a human with trilobites right in the footprint itself. The other half of the rock slab showed an almost perfect mold of the footprint and fossils. Amazingly the human was wearing a sandal! Trilobites were small marine invertebrates, the relatives of crabs and shrimps, that flourished for some 320 million years before becoming extinct 280 million years ago. Humans are currently thought to have emerged between 1 and 2 million years ago and to have started wearing well-shaped footwear for no more than a few thousand years.
The sandal that crushed a living trilobite was 10 1/2 inches long and 3 1/2 inches wide; the heel is indented slightly more than the sole, as a human shoe print would be. Meister took the rock to Melvin Cook, a professor of metallurgy at the University of Utah, who advised him to show the specimen to the university geologists. When Meister was unable to find a geologist willking to examine the print, he went to a local newspaper, The Deseret News. Before long, the find recieved national publicity. On July 20, 1968, the Antelope Spring site was examined by Dr. Clifford Burdick, a consulting geologist from Tuscon, Arizona, who soon found the impression of a child's foot in a bed of shale. ``The impression", he said, ``was about six inches in length, with the toes spreading, as if the child had never yet worn shoes, which compress the toes. There does not appear to be much of an arch, and the big toe is not prominent." Dr. Burdick stated:
The rock chanced to fracture along the front of the toes before the fossil print was found. On a cross section the fabric of the rock stands out in fine laminations, or bedding planes. Where the toes pressed into the soft material, the laminations were bowed downward from the horizontal, indicating a weight that had been pressed into the mud.
In August of 1968 Mr. Dean Bitter, an educator in the Salt Lake City public schools system, claimed to have discovered two more prints of shoes or sandals in the Antelope Spring area. According to professor Cook, no trilobites were injured by these footfalls, but a small trilobite was found near the prints in the same rock, indicating the small sea creature and the sandaled wanderer might have been contemporaries.