The prints were made at a time when large wild animals, including some extinct species, roamed the mudflats of the Alt estuary.
A local amateur archaeologist and retired teacher, Gordon Roberts, discovered the human and animal prints while walking his dog on Formby beach where erosion has uncovered old layers of sediment.
He saw a track of human footprints emerging from the sea and disappearing under a layer of sediment. 'I hadn't expected to find human prints,' he said. 'One was so well formed in the clay I thought it was modern.'
Professor Michael Day, an archaeologist at the Natural History Museum in London, confirmed that the footprints were made by humans who did not habitually wear shoes, indicating they were very old.
'The prints have the typical barefoot gap between the big toe and the rest of the toes. People who wear shoes do not have such a gap,' Professor Day said. Radio- carbon dating on a plant root embedded in one of the footprints showed they were between 3,000 and 4,000 years old, he added.
The oldest human footprints in Britain were found several years ago in the Usk estuary near Newport in South Wales. The Formby footprints are the only other evidence of Stone Age man walking around in Britain, he said.
'They indicate that people were using the foreshore at this time, probably to collect shellfish and other things that you can collect on a beach.'
Archaeologists have also identified one set of animal prints as those of the aurock, an extinct species of wild cattle.Reuse content