“Tracking is the origin of Science. The observation and interpretive skills of the tracker are the origins of mathematics and physics.”  

– Louis Liebenberg, South African Wildlife Biologist

The Laetoli footprints of Australopithecus afarensis preserved in volcanic ash located in Tanzania. The tracks discovered by archaeologist Mary Leakey in 1976 are about 3.6 to 3.8 million-years-old. Other animal species prints found among the hominin A. afarensis, were hyenas, Machairodus (a wild cat species), baboons, wild boars, giraffes, gazelles, rhinos, several kinds of antelope, Hipparion, buffaloes, relatives the elephant species, hares, and birds. (Image Credit: Raffaello Pellizzon)

Tracking and our Human Ancestors

It’s not precisely known when tracking became a necessary skill for human survival. Yet, Archaeologists who discovered evidence of tools alongside two-million-year-old remains of our human ancestors believe that those ancestors were meat eaters and hunted for their food. It’s reasonable to believe by the evidence found that when our ancestors learned to hunt they also developed the knowledge and skill to track. By means of associating specific impressions made by particular animals in the dirt (as well as other evidence), it allowed our early human ancestors the ability to hunt for food more effectively.

Early humans were simple trackers who, when hunting, were able to derive what species of animal made an impression, how large the animal was, how many animals in a group, and which direction they went. Over time, our early human ancestors learned to age the track, use terrain to their advantage, further develop tools for hunting as well as developing strategy and tactics to hunt and kill their prey.

Through tracking, our human ancestors became better hunters and consumed more meat, which was the catalyst needed for human evolution. Over time, the consumption of meat provided the vital nutrients our early ancestors needed to fuel the expansion of their brain and increase their body size. Tracking and hunting for meat allowed our species to survive and evolve into the intelligent species we are today.

Not only did tracking offer our human species the ability to hunt more effectively and help humans evolve, but tracking also played a vital role in protecting the tribe from competing tribes. As our human species evolved, tracking continued to play a significant role in our survival and evolution.

Tracking Today

Today, tracking has not only developed as an essential skill for human survival but also as a science that has many applications in the modern world. Humans still use tracking to find lost or missing people, perform self-rescue thru backtracking, pursue criminals and/or enemy forces, develop patterns of life for scientific, forensic and intelligence purposes, as well as enhance individual situational awareness. There is no doubt that learning to track provided humans the ability to read their environment and solve problems in a way that has influenced human evolution.

Written by John Hurth, President of TYR Group LLC and author of “Combat Tracking Guide” published by Stackpole Books. https://www.tyrgroupllc.com/