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Earliest footprints of Homo Erectus found in Eritrea


Italian and Eritrean researchers on Wednesday found the first traces of Homo erectus, a key predecessor of modern man.

Earliest footprints of Homo Erectus found in Eritrea
The fossilized footprints are thought to be 800,000 years old 
[Credit: Sapienza University]
The footprints, left 800,000 years ago in the sand of a lake that is now part of an Eritrean desert, were found by palaeontologists from Rome's La Sapienza University and the National Museum of Eritrea, at the Aalad-Amo site in the east of the country.

Earliest footprints of Homo Erectus found in Eritrea
Coppa and his Italian colleagues were working with researchers from Eritrea's National Museum when they 
unearthed the 26 m2 slab of stone containing the footprints [Credit: Sapienza University]
Dig coordinator Alfredo Coppa said the footprints would likely say a lot about a key species in the history of human evolution.

Earliest footprints of Homo Erectus found in Eritrea
The fossilized footprints, which are almost indistinguishable to those of modern man, were left 
in sandy sedimentson what archaeologists believe was once the shore of a large lake 
[Credit: Sapienza University]
The footprints are very similar to those of modern man and could provide important information about our ancestors' foot anatomy and locomotion: they show details of the toes and the sole of the foot that made them efficient at walking and running.

Earliest footprints of Homo Erectus found in Eritrea
Around the footprints, which move from north to south, the tracks of a gazelle-like animal – which 
were perhaps being stalked by the early man - can also be seen 
[Credit: Sapienza University]
The footprints are aligned in a north-south direction the same as hoof prints left by extinct antelopes and are preserved in a sediment of hardened sand, probably exposed to flooding. This suggests that the area was a lake surrounded by savannah.

Earliest footprints of Homo Erectus found in Eritrea
3D reconstruction of one of the footprints 
[Credit: Sapienza University]
The discovery is the first time that footprints from the mid-Pleistocene era have been found, a very important period of transition in human evolution, in which human species with larger brains and more modern bodies than homo erectus developed.

Source: ANSA [June 15, 2016]
TANN

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1 comment :

  1. Fantastic discovery, but unfortunately the interpretations (as so often in paleo-anthropology) are unscientific: "The footprints are very similar to those of modern man ... they show details of the toes & the sole of the foot that made them efficient at walking & running." This is anthropocentric thinking: erectus' footprints resemble ours, we can walk & run bipedally (not very efficiently BTW: only about half as fast as horses, lions, dogs or ostriches), therefore H.erectus walked & ran like we do, they conclude. This is wishful thinking. African apes before birth also have humanlike feet, e.g. "The embryo of a chimpanzee at one stage has a foot resembling that of man ... Only as it approaches its birth does its foot acquire the appearance of a hand ..." (C.Coon). IOW, a humanlike foot does not discern Homo from Pan. It might also suggest that chimps & bonobos had more bipedal ancestors. Lowland gorillas & bonobos are bipedal when they wade in forest swamps, e.g. for floating vegetation such as waterlilies or papyrus sedges, google e.g. bonobo wading.
    Cursorial animals have very long & strong middle pedal rays (e.g. ostrich), whereas wading & swimming animals have flatter feet with long & strong outer digital rays, like ours. IOW, our feet were probably originally adapted to wading/swimming, and are only secondarily adapted to more walking/running. The Eritrean footprints are found at a lake, exactly where we predicted them to be, google e.g. econiche Homo.
    Great discovery, thanks a lot!

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