3.6 Million Years BCE: Hawmo Nid

Hawmo Nid jumped up from his sleep and screamed the alarm! His troop of Australopithecines (pre-humans) sprang to action. The females and children leaped to the tree they were sleeping under. The tree stood alone on the dry savannahs of East Africa. The males moved to the base of the tree in a defensive position.

A pride of hungry cats came from the tall grass. The males screamed, throwing dirt and stones in the direction of the cats, but the cats were too hungry to be dissuaded. The cats tore into the males in a frenzy of hunger. All of the males except Hawmo were slaughtered. Hawmo ran to the tree.

The cats surrounded the tree. As time went on, members of the troop began to leap from the tree trying to escape. None succeeded. Soon, only Hawmo, a female, and her cub were left.

Then, far away, a mountain that would be named Sadiman exploded, sending towers of ashes into the air. The cats ran. Four hours later, Hawmo made the call that meant follow me and left the tree. The female and the adolescent followed.

 

The female walked close to Hawmo’s side, brushing her shoulder against his arm as she walked. The ground was covered in volcanic ash. The first storm of the season dropped a steady, light rain. The water reacted with the ash, causing a carbonate crust to form over the top.

 

Walking in the soft, wet ash was difficult. The adolescent began walking in Hawmo’s footprints. The female stopped to look at the new foreboding world. She watched as Hawmo forged resolutely on. The adolescent followed, half jumping, his arms spread to maintain balance as he tried to walk in the footsteps. The female brushed a tear from her cheek and hurried after the others.

 

Over the next two weeks, the mountain erupted three more times, burying the tracks left in the carbonate crust. Under the ash, the carbonate gradually turned to a crystalline mineral called trona. The trona fossilized, immortalizing the footprints of the male, female, and playful adolescent.

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