Creation 41(3):26–27, July 2019
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Dinosaur footprint treasure trove found in Britain
Beautifully preserved dinosaur footprints found recently near Hastings in southern England are the most diverse and detailed ever found in the UK. More than 85 of these trace fossils, representing at least seven species, were discovered and documented by a Cambridge University research team.1 “As well as the large abundance and diversity of these prints, we also see absolutely incredible detail,” said lead author Anthony Shillito. “You can clearly see the texture of the skin and scales, as well as four-toed claw marks, which are extremely rare.”2
From 2014 to 2018, coastal erosion of the alleged ‘Cretaceous-aged’ (145–100 million years old) Ashdown Formation led to cliff collapses, revealing previously hidden footprints. The team visited five times during this period to examine these freshly fallen blocks of rock which contained most of the footprints. The now-accessible material had originated at the base of the Lee Ness Sandstone, which sits upon a layer of mudstone. The footprints ranged from 2 cm (0.8 in.) to over 60 cm (2 ft) across, and were identified as coming from, iguanodontians, an ankylosaur, a stegosaur, theropods, and sauropods.
As most of the footprints are confined to the fallen blocks, the majority are of single footprints; some are trackways of two to three, but never more than five in a row. This highly diverse range of well-preserved footprints (with likely more to be revealed with further erosion) adds to an already substantial list of dinosaur finds in the Hastings area. These include the original Iguanodon (1822), and the incredible find of the first-ever fossilized dinosaur brain.3
How to preserve dino prints
“To preserve footprints, you need the right type of environment,” said co-author Neil Davies. “The ground needs to be ‘sticky’ enough so that the footprint leaves a mark, but not so wet that it gets washed away. You need that balance in order to capture and preserve them.” Of course, they would still need to be buried quickly under another layer of sediment before being eroded away.
The majority of the footprints were made in the silty mud that hardened into mudstone which lies just beneath the sandstone. It is here that “Footprints with skin impressions are preferentially seen … cast directly into the underlying mudstone, and are clear evidence of the complete preservation of true surface traces.”
Many of those made in the lowermost layer of the sandstone, which also records ripple marks, lack skin impressions. So the consistency of the material the dinosaur stood in directly affected the detail of the print left behind. Indeed some of the fossil footprints in the mudstone show where the mud was slightly too wet, leaving a less well-defined footprint and mud squelching up inbetween the dinosaur’s toes.
Slow forming layers?
The study’s authors suggest that these footprint-bearing layers were laid down on a flood plain, and that there were prolonged periods of sedimentary stasis (pause in laying down of sediment) between them to allow for the trackways to be imparted. But does this make sense? Everyday life informs any thinking person that these trackways could not have been around for any lengthy period of time prior to burial.
Consider the police responding to a burglary and finding fresh footprints in some mud leading away from the scene. When they task crime scene investigators to take a cast of the footprint they come quickly! Why? Because they understand that the footprints will be gone quickly. This could even be minutes, or hours, depending on the weather conditions. Even prints hardened by being sun-baked, if not buried reasonably soon thereafter and thus removed from the effects of wind and rain, will scarcely last for a handful of years, let alone thousands or millions. Indeed, due to the ongoing costal erosion, on each of the five visits the team saw the exposure of new material and the degradation of previously observed tracks. Sometimes they even totally disappeared—and consider that, if anything, the material containing the tracks would have become more erosion-resistant from being hardened since its burial.
The study also revealed that there was widespread invertebrate burrowing in the rocks they examined, but that this never occurred internally within the dinosaur footprints. The implication of this is that the dinosaur stepped into soft material in which burrowing had freshly occurred, and before this could continue a new layer of sediment was rapidly laid down on top, preventing any further burrowing.
The Bible has the answer
So slow-and-gradual processses can’t explain this magnificent track site that preserves high-fidelity skin and claw impressions. A far better explanation is the global Noahic Flood some 4,500 years ago. As the Flood “waters prevailed on the earth 150 days” (Genesis 7:24), it would deposit sedimentary layers. And various processes, including vertical tectonic land movements, would have caused water to retreat temporarily to expose these layers. This is the BEDS (Briefly Exposed Diluvial Sediments) hypothesis.4
During this calamitous time, groups of dinosaurs and other creatures sought refuge on higher land not yet reached by the water, or swam to sections of land briefly exposed by such surface fluctuations. As the waters encroached on this land as well, these animals would flee away, leaving their footprints behind, such as in this mudstone.
As the water level rose again, it would bring in fresh sediment to cover and preserve the footprints. This oscillating process could be repeated a number of times in quick succession. This could account for footprints found on several different layers on top of one another, often of the same species. In long-age models this would mean that the same species left its prints at the same spot, but with each occurrence separated by many thousands or millions of years—an amazing coincidence!
This model offers a straightforward explanation for what cannot otherwise be adequately explained using long periods of time. Taking Noah’s Flood into account often provides good answers to what otherwise can seem perplexing for those who refuse to consider it.
References and notes
- Shillito, P., & Davies, N., Dinosaur-landscape interactions at a diverse Early Cretaceous tracksite (Lee Ness Sandstone, Ashdown Formation, southern England), J. Palaeo. 514:593–612, 2019. Return to text.
- Collins, S., ‘Treasure trove’ of dinosaur footprints found in southern England, cam.ac.uk, 17 Dec 2018. Return to text.
- Brasier, M.D. and 7 others, Remarkable preservation of brain tissues in an Early Cretaceous iguanodontian dinosaur, Geological Society448(1):383–398, 27 Oct 2016. Return to text.
- Oard, M.J., Dinosaur Challenges and Mysteries: How the Genesis Flood Makes Sense of Dinosaur Evidence Including Tracks, Nests, Eggs, and Scavenged Bones, CBP, 2011; available at creation.com/s/10-2-582. Return to text.
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