Researchers have found traces of Homo sapiens dating back 90,000 years, the oldest in North Africa and the southern Mediterranean. Moroccan and French researchers have recently discovered the largest and best-preserved site of Late Pleistocene human footprints in Larache, Morocco.

The find, dating back around 90,000 years, constitutes the oldest evidence of the presence of Homo sapiens in North Africa and the southern Mediterranean.

The site is located on the coastal rocky platform of Larache, south of the Loukkos River estuary. The area is composed of Quaternary cliffs containing sedimentary deposits of beaches, wind-blown dunes, and reddish layers. As the cliffs recede, sandstone with preserved footprints has been exposed on the upper part.

A total of 85 isolated or grouped human footprints have been identified on two sandy surfaces sloping towards the sea. Researchers estimate the presence of at least 5 individuals of different ages, including children, teenagers, and adults, based on morphometric analysis. The footprints measure between 12.7 to 30 cm, suggesting heights ranging from 1.20 to 1.89 m.

To date the site, a rock sample below the footprints yielded an age of 90,300 ± 7,600 years, belonging to the Last Interglacial. This discovery places the Larache footprints as the oldest direct evidence of Homo sapiens in North Africa.

According to Vincent Boutiera, a researcher at CNRS and director of the Moroccan-French Archaeological Mission, this significant discovery fills a gap in the ichnological record of the African continent. It demonstrates the early presence of our species in this key region for understanding its evolution and dispersal.

Another relevant aspect is that the footprints show movements of multigenerational groups of prehistoric humans along the beach in different directions. This suggests an ecological relationship between Homo sapiens populations and coastal environments at that time, according to the authors.

However, due to current erosion of the rocky platform by waves, researchers warn that this valuable record could be lost in the medium term if measures are not taken to protect it.

For now, they will continue analyzing the area to discover other possible footprints recently exposed as the coast recedes.


Sedrati, M., Morales, J.A., Duveau, J. et al. A Late Pleistocene hominin footprint site on the North African coast of Morocco. Sci Rep 14, 1962 (2024).

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