• human footprints;
  • stature estimation;
  • minimum number of individuals;
  • cave occupation


In 1965, Ciur-Izbuc Cave in the Carpathian Mountains of Romania was discovered to contain about 400 ancient human footprints. At that time, researchers interpreted the footprints to be those of a man, woman and child who entered the cave by an opening which is now blocked but which was usable in antiquity. The age of the prints (≈10–15 ka BP) was based partly on their association with cave bear (Ursus spelaeus) footprints and bones, and the belief that cave bears became extinct near the end of the last ice age. Since their discovery, the human and bear evidence and the cave itself have attracted spelunkers and other tourists, with the result that the ancient footprints are in danger of destruction by modern humans. In an effort to conserve the footprints and information about them and to reanalyze them with modern techiques, Ciur-Izbuc Cave was restudied in summer of 2012. Modern results are based on fewer than 25% of the originally described human footprints, the rest having been destroyed. It is impossible to confirm some of the original conclusions. The footprints do not cluster about three different sizes, and the number of individuals is estimated to be six or seven. Two cases of bears apparently overprinting humans help establish antiquity, and C-14 dates suggest a much greater age than originally thought. Unfortunately, insufficient footprints remain to measure movement variables such as stride length. However, detailed three-dimensional mapping of the footprints does allow a more precise description of human movements within the cave. Am J Phys Anthropol 155:128–135, 2014. © 2014 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.