Footprints from Fossils to Gallows

October 17, 2023 (last updated on November 17, 2023)

In a blend of memoir and rigorous scientific investigation, Russell H. Tuttle explores the profound impacts of evidence in both historical and legal realms in Footprints from Fossils to Gallows: Adventures in Paleoanthropology, Primatology, and Forensic Anthropology.

Tuttle was privileged to study one of the most dramatic and provocative fossil discoveries of the twentieth century: 3.66–million–year–old (MA) bipedal footprint trails at Laetoli, Northern Tanzania. This adventure concurrently led to invitations to join a team of barristers and solicitors in defense of two men accused of involvement in a murder in Winnipeg, Canada. The Queen’s Counsel for the prosecution had engaged a certified forensic anthropologist, Louise M. Robbins (1928–1987), who had worked on a different section of the Laetoli footprints trails before him. Her claim to have developed a new science of human footprint analysis for forensic use and wild speculations about the makers of some Laetoli prints prompted him to question her scientific ability and method of footprint analysis and the judgment of fellow forensic anthropologists who supported her testimonials.