By: April Carson
The oldest footprints date back more than 2.5 million years and predate the earliest known example of pre-human people by a significant margin.
On the Greek territory, an international team of researchers has re-examined fossil footprints made by a primitive human. Modern dating technologies have allowed them to be dated precisely, revealing their age to be 6.05 million years old. This is a key finding in paleoanthropology because it confirms that humans developed an upright stance and the ability to walk long distances before the brain grew in size.
Are these footsteps really the world's oldest?
The ancient footsteps were discovered on the island of Crete in 2002 near the Greek hamlet of Trachilos. Even before they made that claim, the researchers said that the discovered traces were among the oldest of their kind and belonged to one of man's distant ancestors.
According to recent studies, these footprints are now estimated to be 350,000 years old, according to new research. Furthermore, modern data processing techniques have confirmed the prior hypothesis that the tracks are, in fact, made by humans.
The discovery has shocked paleontologists around the world.
" When they found it, I don't think they realized how old these prints were," said Ian Tattersall, a paleoanthropologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City who was not involved in the new research. Until now, many researchers had thought that the oldest known human footprints date to about 40,000 years ago.
"This is a major discovery," Tattersall said. "It's like finding the first dinosaur."
Over the last few years, 51 ancient footprints have been discovered near Trachilos on Crete's western outskirts. They are preserved in sedimentary rock along the Mediterranean Sea's beaches. So far, scientists haven't figured out what species of hominid made these prints in the coastal zone.
This was a previously almost entirely upright hominid, according to a new research. The prints show that he had a big toe on his feet and that the foot itself had a form characteristic of humans. In particular, her sole included a spherical projection in the front part - something unique to humans but not found in monkeys.
The age of the tracks was not clarified, but rather just added to the mystery. According to popular belief, humans originated in Africa and then traveled across Europe and Asia in several migratory waves, beginning with the first wave that crossed into Europe.
2.5 million years older than “Lucy”
The oldest members of the genus Australopithecus were discovered in Tanzania's Laetoli, and they lived there at around 4 million years ago. It is to this species that Lucy, the most famous officially recognized human ancestor, belongs. The facts, however, are that traces dating back almost 2.5 million years to Crete were made by a human ancestor whose fossils have not yet been found.
By the way, Orrorin tugenensis is a species of upright primates that science recognizes. Their bones have been discovered previously in Kenya.
This species existed between 6.1 and 5.8 million years ago. Chronologically, it is comparable to the age of the Cretan footprint fossils, but scientists didn't find evidence suggesting that individuals of the species had left their footprints in Crete.
The researchers propose that the oldest footprints were made by a far more primitive hominid species than Australopithecus afarensis. Furthermore, six million years ago, Crete was not yet an island. It was located on the mainland at the time and is now part of Greece.
The unusual site
This implies that the first humans may have lived not just in Africa, but also in Southeast Europe. Furthermore, scientists propose that traces could have been left at a time when the present-day Mediterranean Sea shrunk or dried up.
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