Prehistoric human footprints discovered in Kenya

This video is called Human Evolution Made Easy.

By Ann Gibbons:

Early Humans Toed the Line

ScienceNOW Daily News

26 February 2009

More than 1.5 million years ago, several human ancestors wandered across a mud flat at what is now Ileret, Kenya. The footprints they left behind, the second oldest ever found, reveal that these early humans had evolved big, modern feet–and that they walked just like we do, according to a new study.

Human ancestors began walking upright at least 6 million years ago, according to analysis of hominid leg and pelvic bones. But researchers have debated when they evolved the ability to walk upright in a modern manner, rather than with a more primitive gait, possibly like the bent-kneed waddle of chimpanzees. Footprints found in Laetoli, Tanzania, show that the australopithecines that made them 3.75 million years ago had longer toes, a shallower arch, and a more apelike big toe that jutted slightly away from the other toes. This suggested to some that they had a more primitive gait and that the transition to fully modern walking didn’t happen until our direct ancestor, Homo erectus, emerged about 1.9 million years ago. However, researchers had few fossils of the foot of H. erectus to prove it walked just like we do. Now, with the discovery of the footprints, which were probably made by H. erectus, at Ileret, they have direct evidence of how it walked.

To find out, a team led by Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University in the United Kingdom scanned and digitized at least four trails of footprints laid down over several thousand years at Ileret. The researchers were able to use the size, spacing, and depth of the impressions to estimate the weight, stride length, and gait of the ancient walkers. As the researchers report in tomorrow’s issue of Science, the new footprints show that these early humans were pushing off the ground with their big toes–or toeing off–and shifting their weight over these digits in the same way as modern humans. H. erectus’s feet had clearly evolved a modern shape, with the big toe parallel to the other toes and a pronounced arch, says paleoanthroologist Brian Richmond of George Washington University in Washington, D.C.

Homo erectus in China: here.

New Hominid Discovered: Anoiapithecus brevirostris: here.

A recent discovery, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Ward, Tocheri, Plavcan, Brown, and Manthi, PNAS, Vol. 111, No. 1, pp. 121-124, January 7, 2014), provides evidence that pushes back the evolution of the human hand to more closely correlate with the appearance of sophisticated stone tools. At almost 1.5 million years old, the metacarpal bone found in Kenya is the oldest known to possess a key modern human characteristic. The discovery was made by researchers in Kenya, Britain and the United States, including Carol Ward and Kyalo Manthi: here.

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7 thoughts on “Prehistoric human footprints discovered in Kenya

  1. Pingback: Did big cats evolve in Tibet? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  2. Pingback: Ancient Neanderthals, new research | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  3. Pingback: Prehistoric human discovery in England | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  4. Pingback: 3.3-million-year-old stone tools discovery in Kenya | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  5. Pingback: New Austalopithecus species discovered | Dear Kitty. Some blog

  6. Pingback: Neanderthal footprints discovery in Gibraltar? | Dear Kitty. Some blog

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