Fossil Footprint Thief Can't Cover Tracks

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September 24, 2017

A would-be thief of fossil footprints has been caught and the artifacts returned.

The footprints, found recently in Trachilos on the island of Crete, are thought to be 5.7 million years old. A paleontologist discovered the footrpints, which number a few dozen, in 2002 and thought at the time that they were mammalian but not necessarily human. Further research led the scientist to conclude that a human-like creature left the footprints. The study announcing those findings was published on August  31, 2017.

Not two weeks later, a visitor to the site reported that large chunks of rock containing several of the footprints were missing. The National History Museum of Crete confirmed the disappearance, and a search ensued, resulting in the arrest of a 55-year-old man and the recovery of all missing fossils.

Authorities did not release details of the investigation or explain how it led to the man arrested. They did say, however, that the fossils were well-known enough and distinct enough that someone trying to sell them would have a difficult time doing so.

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