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Dinosaur footprints uncovered in Egypt's Eastern Desert

An Egyptian research team announced the discovery of the footprint of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs in the Eastern Desert dating back more than 70 million years.
Dinosaur footprints in Egypt's Western Desert.

CAIRO — An Egyptian research team announced in early February the discovery of the footprints of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs in the southern Eastern Desert, which date back more than 70 million years.

President of the New Valley University Abdel Aziz Tantawi said in a press statement Feb. 2, “The scientific discovery, the first of its kind in Egypt, was the result of joint efforts between the Vertebrate Paleontology Lab at Cairo University and the Vertebrate Paleontology Center at New Valley University. [The discovery] is clear evidence of the presence of giant carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs in the Eastern Desert of Egypt more than 70 million years ago.”

According to a report published Feb. 8 by Sky News Arabia, there had been an assumption that dinosaurs roamed the Eastern Desert in Egypt more than 70 million years ago. “But this hypothesis was not supported by any physical discovery, until three Egyptian scientists announced the first physical evidence of dinosaur footprints in the Eastern Desert recently,” the report stated.

Mohammed Qarni, director of the Vertebrate Paleontology Lab at Cairo University and one of the members of the research team behind the discovery, told Al-Monitor, “The discovery of 16 footprints of dinosaurs on layers of the Nubian sandstone showed the presence of two-legged carnivorous dinosaurs and four-legged herbivorous dinosaurs.”

He said, “The sizes of some dinosaurs were estimated at between 500 to 900 kilograms," or 1,100-1,984 pounds. "The height of one of the carnivorous dinosaurs was estimated at 4 meters [13 feet] and the other 5 meters [16.5 feet].”

Dinosaurs belong to the vertebrate subphylum. Non-avian dinosaurs lived between roughly 245-65 million years ago, during the Mesozoic Era.

A report published by Deutsche Welle last year noted, “Most studies indicate that all types of dinosaurs became extinct about 65 million years ago, and scientists were unable to determine the exact cause of their extinction. But the likely reason is the collision of the earth with an asteroid.”

Qarni noted the discovery will allow for the first time the study and documentation of footprints of carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs in the Eastern Desert of Egypt. This discovery has economic and touristic importance and value. "We are in the process of contacting the official authorities, including the Antiquities and Environment ministries, to turn the area where the discovery was made into a nature reserve and a tourist attraction site,” he said

Qarni added, “In 2008, Rod Graham, professor at Imperial College London, and Ahmed Niazi, professor at the Department of Geology at Cairo University, first discovered these footprints during a scientific trip. Since then, Niazi has explained these footprints to his students on scientific field trips as footprints of huge reptiles. At the time, the footprints were not fully studied.”

Qarni continued, “The joint research team of Cairo University and New Valley University began conducting field studies of these footprints in 2018. The team published a study in the Geological Journal of Wiley Publishing House in mid-December 2021,” before discovering that they belonged to carnivorous and herbivorous dinosaurs. 

Walid Kassab, assistant professor in the Department of Geology at Cairo University and a member of the research team behind the discovery, told Al-Monitor that the research team made field visits to examine the footprints. “The team compared these footprints with similar shapes, reaching the conclusion that they belonged to herbivorous and carnivorous dinosaurs,” he said.

He added, “This scientific discovery is unique. The footprints date back to the Late Cretaceous period during which the presence of many creatures, such as reptiles and dinosaurs, was abundant. Also, during this period, temperatures and sea levels on earth were very high.”

Meanwhile, the director of the Vertebrate Paleontology Center at New Valley University, Jbeili Abdel-Maqsoud, said in a Feb. 2 statement that these recent discoveries of vertebrate fossils in the Egyptian desert record a new history of ancient wildlife in Africa.

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