Paluxy Paradox: Did Dinosaurs and Men Walk Together?
trackways, like these in Connecticut, can tell scientists
stories about the way the animals lived. Do some tracks
at Paluxy tell any even more fantastic story though?
It was around 1910 when two boys, out for a day
of fishing, made a fascinating discovery. Charlie and Grady
Moss were walking along the Paluxy River near Glen Rose, Texas,
when they spotted something strange on a limestone shelf. There
they found a series of tracks imprinted into the rock. Immense
tracks of a creature with three toes. Scientists would later
identify this animal as a large theropod dinosaur named Acrocanthosaurus.
Nearby the three-toed tracks was something even more amazing:
A series of oblong footprints in the stone that looked like
it came from a giant man.
The "giant man tracks," as Charlie described them,
quickly became local curiosities. It wasn't until much later
that the incredible contradictions such a find would mean came
to the attention of the scientific world. If indeed there were
human footprints fossilized into the same rock as dinosaur footprints
then it must mean that dinosaurs lived at the same time as men.
Such a find would totally upset the geological timetable as
it was known. Either dinosaurs hadn't died out 65 million years
ago as generally thought, or man had come onto the Earth much
earlier than any scientific theory would allow.
Dinosaur tracks were first spotted along the Wheeler
Branch of the Paluxy river after a heavy flood in the valley
in 1908. A local teenager named Ernest Adams discovered a series
of three-toed tracks. However scientists were slow to recognized
the value of such tracks (which are part of a class of fossils
called trace fossils) but in the early 1980s they began
to realize that a series of footprints could tell them a story
about the way living, breathing dinosaurs behaved that fossil
bones could not.
A series of fossil tracks, known as a trackway,
can show scientists whether the animal moved on two legs or
four, was running or walking, and traveled with its legs sprawled
out or under its hips. The size of the feet and the length of
the stride can also be used to calculate a rough estimate of
how fast the creature was moving. Several trackways in close
proximity to one another can tell us how one animal related
with others. Was it walking as part of a herd? Was it chasing
another animal? Or perhaps being chased?
Such fossil tracks are typically formed when an
animal walks across a soft, moist, fine-grained sediment. As
the animal steps, its feet sink into the ground leaving impressions.
If the tracks lie undisturbed till the sediment hardens, another
deposit of sediment can then wash over the tracks and cover
them. Over time these sediment layers harden into rock. As the
rock erodes downward the tracks are eventually exposed. Depending
on the conditions when the tracks were formed the impressions
can range from clear to indistinct.
In theory, dinosaur tracks can be found in any
rock strata laid down in the Mesozoic era when dinosaurs were
alive, but conditions at the actual time the tracks are made
are critical to their creation. There are over a thousand known
locations where dinosaurs tracks can be found around the world.
In the 1930's, during the Great Depression, some
of the residents of Glen Rose began to supplement their incomes
by chiseling out dinosaur tracks from the riverbed and selling
them to passing tourists. There are also reports that some of
Charlie Moss's "giant man tracks" were also removed and
sold. In the same era a few of the area's entrepreneurs not
only sold the real dinotracks, but started carving new ones
on loose stone and selling those. In addition to carved dinosaurs
tracks, apparently some "giant man tracks" were also created
by carving and were passed off on visiting sightseers.
In 1938 one pair of these carved "man tracks"
wound up at a trading post in Gallup, New Mexico. There they
caught the eye of Roland Bird, a paleontologist with the American
Museum of Natural History. Checking in some other nearby shops
Bird also found carved dinosaur tracks. He recognized them as
being carvings rather than actual tracks, but he was intrigued
by what the carvers might have seen that had inspired them to
make the fakes. Finding that the carving originated in the Glen
Rose region, he decided to stop there on his way back to New
Bird soon found a number of trackways of three-toed
dinosaurs in the Paluxy riverbed. Then he discovered huge bathtub-sized
tracks of sauropods (long-necked, long-tailed dinosaurs that
walked on four legs) in the same region. Bird investigated the
"giant man tracks" but only saw one. It was a large
indistinct oblong impression with a curiously-shaped heel that
he judged to be made by a "hitherto unknown dinosaur or
In the 1950's Bird's work with the dinosaur tracks
at Glen Rose came to the attention of a man named Clifford Burdick.
Burdick supported a theory that the earth was only 15,000 years
old and thought that if there were dinosaur tracks intermixed
with human tracks it would show that the standard geological
timetable generally accepted by science was wrong. Burdick visited
the Paluxy, decided he'd seen some man tracks in the rock and
in 1950 wrote an article about them entitled When Giants
Roamed the Earth for the magazine Signs of the Times.
Burdick's article, however, implied that Bird
had found what he (Bird) considered to be man tracks, when he
had not. Also, in the pictures that Burdick had of the tracks,
only the loose rock (which Bird thought to be carvings) specimens
really looked anything like man prints. The pictures of tracks
still in place in the riverbed appeared to be three-toed dinosaur
tracks, or they were indistinct.
The Burdick article, despite its inaccuracies,
generated interest in the site among people supporting the idea
that dinosaurs and humans walked the earth together. In the
1970's a man named Stanley Taylor filmed a documentary about
the "man tracks" called Footprints in Stone.
Though Taylor wasn't taken in by the carved man tracks collected
by Bird, he found a number of the strange oblong prints in the
riverbed and put them in the documentary, interpreting them
as human footprints.
At about the same time Taylor was doing his filming
a group of investigators from Loma Linda University came to
investigate the "man tracks." Though they were supporters
of the theory that the earth had only a short history, they
reached an opposite conclusion from Burdick: Some of the "man
tracks" found in the riverbed had a strange shape due to
erosion, but they were all typical bipedal dinosaur tracks.
Others were not tracks at all, but just areas were the rock
had eroded in strange shapes. Of the loose stones the team examined
with tracks in them, they determined that they where all likely
In 1979 the stories about the "man tracks"
reached the ears of a biology student at the College of Wooster
in Ohio named Glen Kuban. Kuban and a companion, Tim Bartholomew,
traveled to Glen Rose to take a look at the fossils for themselves.
They found, as the Loma Linda team had asserted, some were not
tracks at all, but just eroded sections of rock. Other tracks,
found at the site Taylor had filmed for Footprints in Stone,
did seem oddly human in shape. On close examination the men
determined that they were not human, but as the Loma Linda team
reported, made by a dinosaur. In many cases the three-toed mark
of a dinosaur foot was visible with careful examination, though
the outer two toes showed up only vaguely. Erosion didn't seem
to explain why the marks looked as human as they did, however.
Kuban and Bartholomew began to suspect there was something special
about these prints, especially the elongated heel. Either the
dinosaur didn't have a typical dinosaur foot, or the dinosaur
was walking in an unusual manner.
Kuban made casts of the tracks and studied them
carefully over the next few months. He came to the conclusion
that the animal wasn't walking as it usually would with most
of its weight on its toes. Instead it was walking "flat-footed"
(often referred to as metatarsal because of the part
of the dinosaur's foot involved) putting more weight on the
back than on the front. This explained the elongated heel and
the lighter toe impressions.
Before Kuban could publish his findings new claims
arose that fossil man tracks had been found at Paluxy. In 1982
a man named Carl Baugh got involved, claiming he had found human
fossil footprints. None of Baugh's discoveries proved to be
actual human footprints, however. Some were the strange metatarsal
dinosaur prints found in other places, others were shallow depressions
with only a vague resemblance to human tracks.
Almost no scientists supported Baugh's conclusions,
but he continued to search the area for fossil indications of
human habitation during the dinosaur era. He later produced
a supposed human tooth (which turned out to be from a fish)
along with other objects, none of which could be shown to have
come from the Paluxy site and strata.
More evidence that the strange metatarsal prints
were actually from dinosaurs was found that same year during
another visit by Glen Kuban to Glenn Rose. Kuban was shown by
a local rancher named Alfred West some tracks on West's property
that bordered the Paluxy. Several of the trackways there displayed
dinosaur footprints as the creatures switched from a normal
step to the metatarsal step and back. Also, the edges of some
of the metatarsal steps in those trackways had collapsed, leaving
an indistinct, but very human-looking print.
In 1984 additional evidence of the dinosaur nature
of some the prints was found when Kuban and Ron Hastings (another
researcher) noticed independently that some of the metatarsal
footprints had left and right dinosaur toe marks not outlined
by indentations in the rock, but by a slightly different coloration
of the material. They suspected and later confirmed that the
outer toes of the dinosaur tracks in ancient times had filled
with a sediment of a slightly different composition than the
material into which the actual footprint had been imprinted.
When the footprints had been exposed, the center portion had
weathered-out more quickly than the outer toes, but the shape
of the toes could still be discerned by the coloration. This
coloration became more pronounced over time as the material
in the tracks turned a rust-like color due to its high iron
The prints at the West site, the coloration markings
of the tracks, and a pair of papers written by Kuban on the
subject pretty much closed the book on the supposed human Paluxy
prints. Stan Taylor's son stopped distributing the film Footprints
in Stone, and at least one author, John Morris, whose book
heavily promoted the evidence of human footprints at Paluxy,
stopped the sale of his work.
That perhaps left only one question to be answered:
Why did the dinosaurs walk in such a flat-footed fashion? Surely
not just to confuse humans many years later. Some possibilities
are that the animals were walking in a crouched position foraging
for food, or stalking prey. Another explanation might be that
some dinosaurs may have walked in this fashion in an attempt
to get a better footing on the slippery sediment (just as people
sometimes do when they are walking on ice).
So did humans walk with the dinosaurs? There are
still people that support this theory saying that the either
earth is younger than the standard geological timetable indicates,
or that man has been around a lot longer than science thinks.
However, if these theories are someday be proven true, it will
have to be with different evidence than the famed Paluxy human
Krystek 2002. All Rights Reserved.
the Heels of Dinosaurs by Glen Kuban, http://members.aol.com/Paluxy2/onheel.htm.
Overview of Dinosaur Tracking by Glen J. Kuban, M.A.P.S.
Digest, April 1994, Mid-America Paleontology Society, also http://members.aol.com/Paluxy2/ovrdino.htm
Science and Earth History-The Evolution/Creation Controversy
N. Strahler,. Prometheus
Paluxy River Mystery
by John D. Morris, Ph.D. Institute for Creation Research, also
Unexplained by Jerome Clark, Visable Ink Press, 1999.
in support of dinoaurs and human activity in same strata:
Taylor Trail: A series of 14 sequential human footprints on
the same platform with at least 134 dinosaur tracks,
www.bible.ca at http://www.bible.ca/tracks/taylor-trail.htm