A research based on footprints and other findings found at a prehistoric site indicates that children in prehistoric societies accompanied adults in all activities, from hunting to tool making.

The site, Melka Kunture in Ethiopia, bears traces of human activity dating 700,000 years back. The human species that inhabited the area was called Homo heidelbergensis. The footprints found at the site are of adults as well as children, sometimes as young as a year old. They were made on a muddy bank by a pool of water and were preserved by a layer of volcanic ash. On the site researchers also found stone tools and the remains of a hippo.

On the area researchers found stone flakes and tools and a hippo carcass that was probably butchered, indicating there was intense activity at the site, according to Professor Matthew Bennett from Bournemouth University, an expert on ancient footprints.

Traces at the site indicate that both adults and children were carrying on activities such as creating stone tools and processing of the carcass.

The study of footprints shows more about behaviour in prehistoric societies than skeletons do. They can indicate if children were playing, for instance, as is the case from another archaeological site in Namibia.

In the new study researchers claim that children not only accompanied adults in normal daily life activities but also learnt from them about hunting and butchering. This assumption is supported by the behaviour of hunter gatherer societies. This comes in contrast to the position children have in today’s Western societies.

The study was published in the journal Scientific Reports.