The Zapata fossil human footprint was initially discovered by a hunter in a wilderness area of New Mexico. This hunter told a friend by the name of Don Shockey about the human fossil footprint find. Mr. Shockey, having a significant background in archeology and anthropology, was very interested in this discovery.
Eventually, Mr. Shockey and a several other interested parties put together a team to return to the track and document its discovery. Dr. Don Patton and Dr. Carl Baugh were two of the primary team members. A mining permit was obtained to excavate in the area where the track was located, and soon after this, the team returned to the site.
The fossil human footprint was photographed, rock samples were removed for analysis, cast impressions obtained, and the location of the site was plotted for future reference.
While the team was working, they were confronted by a local land owner who was armed with a shotgun. The land owner claimed that they were trespassing and that they were on his property. They showed the land owner the mining permit and stated that the property they were on was BLM (Bureau of Land Management) property. The armed land owner insisted that they leave immediately.
The work of documentation was cut short and the team had to leave the area. This was unfortunate because, the hunter that originally had reported the discovery had also reported that he had seen several other human footprints in rock around the same area and showed Dr. Patton several photographs to validate his story.
The Zapata fossil human footprint is extremely shallow and according to Dr. Patton was difficult to photograph because of its shallowness. Upon analysis, the stone that the track was in had been identified as limestone with a 30% silica content.
The shallowness of the track indicates that the newly formed rock layer must have been partially set up when the human stepped into sediment that would eventually become hardened rock. The limestone that the footprint was found in was identified as Permian which is allegedly 250 million years old.