Descending the side of the Roccamonfina Volcano in northern Italy, sets of humanoid footprints had long been considered the imprint of the Devil, for the footprints were most certainly made when the slope of the volcano was molten. And who but the Devil could walk on flowing lava without burning his feet? Since the ancient footprints’ discovery in the late 18th century, the local people assumed that the Ciampate del Diavolo (Devil’s Footprints) were evidence of the demon coming out of hell through the crater of the volcano and joining mankind on Earth. This theory held for over two centuries until 2002, when two amateur archaeologists brought the trail to the attention of the world.
Roccamonfina volcano, Italy (public domain)
The site, located between the villages of Tuoro/Foresta and Piccilli in Campania, Italy, consists of three sets of fossilized footprints and a few scattered handprints. Those who did not believe them to be the mark of the Devil thought that they were ancient animal tracks. It was not until researchers from the University of Padua examined the prints that they were revealed to have a human origin. Moreover, it is believed that the prints were made sometime between 385,000 and 325,000 years ago. This rendered the Devil’s Footprints the oldest known human prints, a title the tracks held until the discovery of the English Happisburgh Prints in 2013, which date back around 800,000 years.
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