Creation/Evolution Journal

A Summary of the Taylor Site Evidence

Reports of giant, fossilized human tracks occurring alongside dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy riverbed near Glen Rose, Texas, began circulating among Glen Rose residents in the early part of this century. The Paluxy "mantrack" claims were supported by creationist geologist Clifford Burdick during the 1950s and became widely known after being discussed in the book, The Genesis Flood by John Whitcomb and Henry Morris (1961). In the mid-1960s, these claims came to the attention of the Reverend Stanley Taylor (since deceased), of Films for Christ Association, who decided to find and film the "giant mantracks" as part of a documentary on the creation-evolution controversy (Taylor, 1968).

In 1968, Taylor and his crew found various oblong marks which they thought were human tracks. Seeking more evidence, Taylor returned in 1969 and 1970 to excavate an area now known as the Taylor site, located a few hundred yards west of Dinosaur Valley State Park (Taylor, 1971). On this site were found many elongate impressions which Taylor considered to be definite human tracks, as well as other tracks acknowledged to be dinosaurian. In 1972, Taylor released the film, Footprints in Stone, which prominently featured the Taylor site "mantracks."

The Taylor site contains a long trail of deep and robust tridactyl dinosaur tracks, as well as several shallower trails, four of which were claimed to be human: the Taylor trail; the Giant Run trail; the Turnage trail; and the Ryals trail, which contains a large hole reported to be the spot from which a human track was removed by Jim Ryals during the late 1930s (Taylor, 1971). Many of the tracks in these trails were more or less oblong in shape and did not match the shape of any dinosaur tracks known to the Taylor crew.

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Some of the tracks did somewhat resemble human footprints; however, many also showed anterior splaying and other problematic features (discussed later on). Nevertheless, Taylor suggested that the shapes of the tracks were unlike the feet of any Cretaceous animal and could only have been made by humans. Some of the tracks were even claimed to show indications of human toes. Subsequently, the Taylor site "mantracks" were cited in numerous books, articles, and tapes and were hailed by many creationists as one of the most dramatic evidences against the theory of evolution.

Those who supported the human-footprint interpretation of the Taylor site tracks emphasized that the tracks could not be carvings or erosion marks since at least part of the site was excavated from under previously undisturbed strata and many of the tracks had mud "push-ups." Further, three of the elongate trails intersected the deep dinosaur trail, providing clear evidence that the makers of both types of tracks walked through the area at approximately the same time.

However, not all creationists agreed with Taylor's interpretations. Even before Taylor's film was released, the Taylor site was studied by a team of creationists from Loma Linda University (Neufeld, 1975), who reported that several of the tracks in the Taylor Trail showed indications of dinosaurian digits and concluded that the tracks were probably eroded remains of three-toed dinosaur tracks (although they did not adequately explain the elongate nature of the tracks). Other creationists, including Dr. Ernest Booth of Outdoor Pictures, Inc. (1981), and Wilbert Rusch, president of the Creation Research Society (1971, 1981), also visited the site soon after it was first exposed and expressed skepticism about the "mantrack" claims.

Nevertheless, the impact of Taylor's film and other creationist works which promoted the "mantrack" claims led to wide acclaim for the Taylor site among creationists. At the time, most evolutionists familiar with these claims apparently did not feel that they were worth careful investigation and typically dismissed them with one or more generalizations. Some suggested that all the "mantracks" were carvings or erosion marks. Others attributed them to middle digit impressions of bipedal dinosaurs or mud-collapsed specimens of typical tridactyl dinosaur tracks. Although some of these explanations did pertain to alleged human tracks on other sites, none of them adequately explained all the features of the Taylor site "mantracks."

During the 1970s, several other creationist teams re-exposed the site and found some previously unrecorded tracks, but most of the members of these teams reaffirmed that the elongate tracks were human or humanlike (Beierle, 1977; Dougherty, 1977; Fields, 1980). John Morris of the Institute for Creation Research was involved in some of the Paluxy work during the late 1970s and, in 1980, published a book supporting many of the "mantrack" claims. He argued that the elongate tracks on the Taylor site were clearly human.

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I began my own field study of the Taylor site in 1980 as part of an intensive study of all Paluxy sites alleged to contain human tracks. Although working largely independently, I have cooperated in my research with a number of other investigators, including Tim Bartholomew (who worked with me in 1980) and Ronnie Hastings (with whom I have worked closely during the past two years).

After thoroughly exposing and cleaning the Taylor site during a drought in the summer of 1980, Bartholomew and I took many measurements and photographs of the tracks and made several rubber casts. We noted that many of the alleged "mantracks" did have a general oblong shape, rounded heel, and mud push-ups around the back and sides of the track but that they differed in significant ways from what would be expected from genuine human tracks. Most splayed into a wide "V" at the anterior, and some showed long, shallow grooves at the anterior in positions that were incompatible with a human foot. The anterior of the tracks thus appeared to indicate a tridactyl (dinosaurian) foot, but the long posterior extension was puzzling and seemed inconsistent with the Loma Linda team's suggestion that these tracks merely represented eroded specimens of typical tridactyl dinosaur tracks. Pondering all the features of the tracks, I hypothesized that, rather than walking in the normal digitigrade (toe-walking) manner of most bipedal dinosaurs, they may have been made by a dinosaur that walked in a plantigrade or quasi-plantigrade fashion, placing weight on the soles of its feet and thereby creating elongated impressions. This would account for all of the features of the tracks, with the lack of distinct digit impressions being attributable to any of several possible phenomena, such as erosion, initially indistinct impressions (due to a firm substrate), or a combination of factors.

That dinosaurs were capable of making elongated impressions by impressing their metatarsi into the sediment was confirmed by my documentation in 1982 and 1983 of another Paluxy site, bordering the Alfred West property, about a mile south of Dinosaur Valley State Park. On the West site were many typical tridactyl tracks and, more significantly, several trails containing elongate dinosaur tracks with rounded heels. Many of the elongate tracks on the West site showed three dinosaurian digits (see FIGURE 1), whereas others—in the very same trackways—exhibited only indistinct digit impressions (see FIGURE 2). In some cases, the digit impressions were largely or entirely obscured (in most cases this appeared to be the result of mud back-flow or erosion), leaving oblong depressions which superficially resembled human footprints. Some of the trails containing elongate tracks also contained tracks showing little or no elongation, apparently indicating that the dinosaur would sometimes alter the extent to which it impressed its metatarsi into the sediment. These trails clearly demonstrated that dinosaurs were capable of making elongate, even humanlike prints. Alfred West had known about these tracks for many years and had suspected that they related to many of the "mantrack" claims, but, prior to 1982, no thorough study of the West site had been made.

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John Morris once visited the West site (which he calls the "Shakey Springs" site) and includes photographs in his book showing some of the elongated dinosaur tracks on this site that show distinct digit impressions. However, he either did not notice or neglected to mention that the site also contains elongate dinosaur tracks which do not show distinct digits and, oddly enough, did not even hint that these elongate dinosaur tracks might be related to the renowned "mantracks" on the Taylor site.

Although these metatarsal-type dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy have been overlooked or misidentified by most researchers for decades, they are fairly common in the Glen Rose area and are probably the source of the initial reports of "giant mantracks" in the Glen Rose area. In addition to the numerous trails of elongate dinosaur tracks on the West and Taylor sites, these metatarsal— or "metapodial"—type dinosaur tracks also occur on other Paluxy sites. In cases where the digits are not distinct, they often have been mistaken for human footprints. The digit impressions can be caused by any of several phenomena, including erosion, mud-collapse, infilling, or a combination of factors, resulting in indistinct oblong depressions, somewhat wider at the front than at the back and thus more or less resembling giant human footprints (see FIGURE 3). Erosion marks and other misinterpreted phenomena have also contributed to "mantrack" claims on other Paluxy sites; however, the metatarsal dinosaur tracks produce the most "manlike" tracks, complete with left-right steps, rounded "heels," mud push-ups, and the proper "giant" size. Indeed, the distinct specimens of elongate dinosaur tracks typically range from twenty-one to twenty-seven inches in length; however, when the digits are obscured, they typically range from fifteen to twenty inches in length—the same size range as the reported "giant mantracks."

It is not yet known what dinosaur species made these elongated tracks or whether the metatarsal-type tracks represent true plantigrade locomotion or merely occasional or aberrant behavior. Elongated dinosaur tracks of various sizes and shapes have been reported from numerous other sites around the world. Many of these other elongate tracks also seem to represent metatarsal impressions.

In September 1984, Ronnie Hastings and I extended the documentation of the Taylor site, finding some new and startling evidence to confirm that the Taylor site "mantracks" were in fact elongated dinosaur tracks. Coloration patterns that were previously noticed on some of the tracks had become more distinct and were visible on most of the other tracks as well. These colorations ranged from blue-grey to rust, in contrast with the ivory to tan color of the surrounding limestone. On many of the tracks, including the alleged mantracks, the colorations clearly defined the shape of dinosaurian digits. These colorations occurred on tracks that already showed anterior splaying or shallow tridactyl indentations as well as on other elongate and nonelongate tracks that showed only slight relief differences with the surrounding substrate. These features suggested that the frequent lack of distinct digit indentations was due, at least in part, to an infilling of the original impressions with secondary sediment which later hardened (as opposed to the West site, where the lack of distinct digits on some of the elongate tracks seems to be due primarily to mud back-flow and erosion).

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Figures 1,2,4,5

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Figure 3

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The colorations on the Taylor site tracks have been getting progressively more distinct during the past few years. Apparently the infilled material is undergoing a chemical reaction that is increasing its contrast with the surrounding substrate. Preliminary study of rock samples from these tracks supports the hypothesis that the blue-grey material represents an infilling of the original track depressions and that the rust color represents an oxidation of iron on the surface of the infilled material. This agrees well with the observation that the tracks bearing blue-grey coloration are on the lower parts of the site and at the bottoms of some tracks, and that the rust colored tracks occur on the higher parts of the site which have been above water and exposed to air more frequently. This would accelerate oxidation. Further, some tracks that were formerly bluish in color have become more brownish and rust-colored and some are now entirely rust-colored.

Almost every track in the Taylor trail shows these colorations, as well as anterior splaying, which clearly indicate a tridactyl dinosaurian foot (FIGURES 4 and 5). The tracks known as the Turnage trail (which actually appears to involve two trails) are somewhat smaller and less elongate than the Taylor trail tracks but also show indentations and colorations in the form of dinosaurian digits. The Giant Run tracks near the bank are indistinct, but others directly in line with them show dinosaurian digits. Several of the Ryals tracks show tridactyl colorations as well as relief and fissure patterns, indicating a dinosaurian foot. Thus, there is abundant evidence that all of the Taylor site trails once claimed to be human were actually made by dinosaurs.

In 1984 and 1985, Hastings and I also mapped a large number of previously overlooked tracks on the Taylor site that are now visible by virtue of the color phenomenon—that is, many of these newly documented tracks are defined primarily by the color distinctions rather than by significant indentations in the rock surface. Included among these newly documented trails is a long sequence of blunt-toed tracks which we have named the "A" trail and the continuation of another trail, the "II-DW" trail, which was formerly thought to be a short, eroded trail of typical tridactyl tracks but is now revealed to be a long trail of elongate dinosaur tracks.

That the colorations represent a genuine phenomena and not a "painting" hoax is indicated by several lines of evidence. These include: the preliminary study of rock samples; the observation that the blue-grey material differs in both color and texture from the surrounding limestone; the raised tracks and indentations which coincide with the colorations; the observations that small fissures in the rock surface often correspond with the coloration borders; that many of the colorations have become more distinct during the past year (while the entire site has been under water); and that the colorations are now visible on over one hundred tracks on the Taylor site, representing at least twelve separate trails.

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That the colorations were overlooked initially may be due to a number of possibilities, including the failure of many investigators to thoroughly clean the tracks (any sediment or algae not completely scrubbed off the rock surface hides these features), the less distinct nature of the colorations in years past, and the possibility that, when first exposed, some of the tracks may have been covered with a thin veneer of limestone that has eroded off in recent years. This latter possibility is suggested by the fact that, when the site was first exposed, the Taylor trail tracks at the lower end of the site were not even reported. However, a close inspection of some frames of the Taylor film and photos from the Loma Linda team and other early researchers shows that indications of the coloration were present at least on some of the tracks even when they were first exposed.

The colorations provide strong confirmation that all the trackways on the Taylor site are dinosaurian. Even before these colorations became more prominent, the tracks did not merit a human interpretation. Not only did the Loma Linda team, Booth, and others observe dinosaurian features soon after the original excavation but nonhuman features on the "mantracks" can even be observed in Taylor's film: if one watches carefully, the anterior splaying and indications of the color patterns are visible on some of the Taylor trail tracks in the distant shots of the upriver end of the site and in some of the close-up shots (of which few were shown of the Taylor site tracks). Morris states on page 97 of his book that the Taylor trail tracks showed no evidence of dinosaurian origin, yet photos of these tracks on pages 204 and 205 of his book show examples of anterior splaying and other problematic features.

I recently challenged the Institute for Creation Research to come to Glen Rose to reexamine the "mantracks" on the Taylor site. In response, John Morris and representatives of Films for Christ met me in October and November of 1985 at the Paluxy sites where we viewed and discussed the evidence together. Shortly after these meetings, the ICR published an article in Impact which, while omitting a frank retraction of past claims, did acknowledge that "none of the four trails at the Taylor site can be today regarded as unquestionably human" (Morris, 1986). Also, Films for Christ has taken Footprints in Stone out of circulation (Taylor, 1985).

Besides the elongate dinosaur tracks, other alleged "mantracks" in the Paluxy have involved other misinterpreted phenomena, including: erosion and natural irregularities of the rock surface; severely eroded specimens of typical tridactyl tracks; partial metatarsal impressions (interpreted by Carl Baugh, a recent "mantrack" promoter, as human tracks overlapping dinosaur tracks); indistinct oblong marks associated with dinosaur trails (apparently indicating a drag or swish mark of the dinosaur's tail, snout, or digit); and a few outright contrivances (Cole, Godfrey, Hastings, and Schafersman, 1985; Kuban, 1986). After over five years of intensive research on this issue, I have concluded that no genuine human tracks have been found in the Paluxy riverbed.

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I would like to clarify my position on the creation-evolution controversy and my reasons for researching and reporting on the Paluxy evidence.

I prefer not to be labeled a creationist or an evolutionist, since I do not fully identify with all of the tenets often assumed to typify each camp. I am a Christian and believe in the Creator but have not yet formed definite conclusions about some aspects of the origins controversy, such as the exact age of the earth or the limits to biological change. However, on some issues that I have studied in depth, such as the Paluxy controversy, I have formed definite conclusions, as explained in this article. I chose to publish my research in Creation/Evolution not to attack creationism but to help set the record straight on the true nature of the Paluxy evidence.

By Glen J. Kuban
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