The Middle Pleistocene footprints of Foresta (Southern-Central Italy): research activities, achievements, and perspectives
The Foresta “Devil's Trails” ichnosite (Roccamonfina volcano, Caserta, central Italy) is famous throughout the world for the abundance of its human ichnological evidence, preserved on the very steep slope surface of an ignimbritic deposit dated at 349±3 ka. An impressive amount of data has been collected during approximately twenty years of research activities (2001-2018). The field and laboratory research led to the detection of at least 81 hominin footprints, most of them arranged in four trackways, as well as a few mammal footprints only partially studied to date [Proboscipeda panfamilia, Pecoripeda (?Cervipeda, Bifidipes sp., and two badly preserved hypothetically impressed by a bear, ? Ursichnus cf. U. europaeus)]. Some investigations are now underway and others, devoted to further increasing knowledge about the site in the context of the evolutionary dynamics of Middle Pleistocene humans and fauna, and paleoenvironment evolution, will be feasible in the near future based on the data already collected.
In this paper we provide a synthesis of the research activities carried out in the period 2001-2018 by a research team originally composed of geologists and ichnologists and progressively enlarged to include archaeologists, vertebrate paleontologists, and volcanologists; highlight the main results achieved throughout this time by means of increasingly developed and advanced techniques of collection, analysis and interpretation of ichnological and geochronological data; briefly illustrate the ongoing studies and recommend future activities; and finally signal the dramatic problem related to the preservation of this unique ichnosite, seriously threatened by progressive degradation.
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