Laetoli is a hominid and faunal fossil trackway site located in northern Tanzania. One of its trackways records unique evidence of bipedalism in hominids 3.6 million years ago. Dr. Mary Leakey originally excavated the site during 1978-1979. The Leakey team recorded the footprints using various techniques, and then reburied the trackway under soil, sand, and lava boulders.
Revegetation by acacia trees and growth of the roots into the trackway caused damage to the footprints and threatened the preservation of this significant site. The Getty Conservation Institute, in collaboration with the Tanzanian Department of Antiquities, undertook the conservation of the Laetoli trackway, which included reburial and development of a monitoring and maintenance program for its long-term preservation. The materials and methods developed for reburial of the trackway are applicable to many archaeological sites that might otherwise deteriorate through exposure to the elements.
Laetoli Footprints: Protecting Traces of our Earliest Ancestors
Related articles in Conservation, The GCI Newsletter
- Olduvai Museum in Tanzania (Fall, 1998)
- A Tribute to Mary Leakey (Spring, 1997)
- The Laetoli Trackway (Fall, 1995)
- The Footprints at Laetoli (Spring, 1995)
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- For further information on this subject, you can search the Getty Research Library Catalog.
Related Non-Getty Publications/Sites
- Neville Agnew and Martha Demas, "Preserving the Laetoli Footprints," in Scientific American, 279, no. 3 (Sept. 1998): 44-45.
- Mary Leakey: Unearthing History (Scientific American).