Welcome to our first episode of 2021! Super excited to get this year going—we’ve got, I promise, lots of great conversations in store for you. But this week, to kick things off, we have a brief audio essay. It’s about tracks—that’s right, footprints. This might seem at first glance like a narrow topic but, fear not, it contains multitudes.
I started thinking about this theme a month or so ago after the first snowfall of the winter. It was just a dusting but perfect conditions for clear, distinct footprints. I was out in the park totally transfixed by these crisp perfect animal tracks. (I’m still not sure what kind of animal, some small to medium mammal.) And, anyway, I got to thinking about how many of us have lost touch with tracks—just like we’ve lost touch with so many other natural phenomena, from bird calls to constellations. And I started thinking about the many meanings of tracks. The roles they’ve played. What they can tell us.
So that was the seed from which this essay grew. In it we talk about how archaeologists have used trackways to reconstruct our prehistory; about how, according to some, tracking played a role in our cognitive evolution; and we talk about how about tracks are mainstay of myth and metaphor and visual culture. Lots here folks—I think you’ll enjoy it.