Study Shows That Ancient Paths Could Be the World's Oldest Hominin Footprints

One of over 50 footprints identified in 2017 in Crete. (Per Ahlberg, Uppsala)
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One of over 50 footprints identified in 2017 in Crete. (Per Ahlberg, Uppsala)

Highlights

  • There are no early Neanderthal writings that neatly summarise all of the differences between Australopithecus and Orrorin.
  • However, bones aren't the only remains left behind by our human predecessors; in certain cases, their footprints have been preserved in the sand.

Scientists believe the ancient tracks may be the oldest hominin footprints ever discovered. It's quite difficult to decipher pre-human history. There are no early Neanderthal writings that neatly summarise all of the differences between Australopithecus and Orrorin. While more ancient bones are being discovered all the time, the number of species of Homo, Graecopithecus, and all the genera in between is still very limited, making it difficult to analyse and catalogue fossil discoveries into one of the many species of Homo, Graecopithecus, and all the genera in between.

However, bones aren't the only remains left behind by our human predecessors; in certain cases, their footprints have been preserved in the sand.
A team of academics discovered and studied around 50 footprints on Trachiolos Beach on the Greek island of Crete in 2017, which were presumed to have been left by an ancient hominin-like creature from 5.7 million years ago.
A new study published this week now suggests that those hominin-like tracks are even older still potentially as old as 6.05 million years old, making it 350,000 years older than originally thought.
There's no evidence of Homo sapiens in the fossil record anywhere before 300,000 years ago, and even our sister species Homo neanderthalensis only appeared around 430,000 years ago, so we're talking about our great-great-great ancestors here.
Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient primate better known from a preserved skeleton nicknamed Lucy, lived as early as 3.9 million years ago, so we're getting closer to the age range there.
According to a new study published this week, those hominin-like traces could be considerably older as old as 6.05 million years old, or 350,000 years older than previously assumed.
There's no evidence of Homo sapiens in the fossil record before 300,000 years ago, and even our sister species Homo neanderthalensis didn't arise until 430,000 years ago, so we're talking about our great-great-great forebears here.
Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient monkey best known for a preserved skeleton dubbed Lucy, existed as early as 3.9 million years ago, so we're getting close.In fact, the tracks are so old that the researchers believe Graecopithecus freybergi, a monkey with teeth fossils dating back 7.2 million years, may have been involved.
All of those ancient hominins would have had feet that differ in characteristics as we moved away from swinging in trees to walking upright full-time, and footprints allow us to analyze where in that process we were up to.
As we progressed from hanging in trees to walking upright full-time, all of those ancient hominins' feet would have had different traits, and footprints allow us to see where we were in the process.
However, not everyone thinks that it is an ancient hominid, and it can be difficult to validate an answer when it comes to footprints.
However, none of the arguments, according to the researchers, has ruled out the possibility that these tracks belong to an early human ancestor like G. freybergi.The researchers decided to check into the chronology of this site in the Platanos Basin and the Vrysses Group of northwestern Crete because the dating of the fossil footprint was also in question.
The scientists investigated 57 samples from Trachiolos Beach using paleomagnetic and micropaleontological methods, which revealed that the imprints were older than previously thought 6.05 million years ago.
These footprints, in case people has forgotten, were found on the island of Crete not Africa. Although Crete would have been attached to mainland Greece at this point, it still throws up even more questions about where ancient hominins first evolved and adds some doubt to the commonly known 'out of Africa' theory.
As the researchers explained in their paper that the evolutionary history and dispersal patterns of hominins are matters of debate.
In case you forgot, these footprints were discovered on the Greek island of Crete, not in Africa. Although Crete would have been part of mainland Greece at this time, it raises more doubts about the origins of early humans and casts doubt on the widely held 'out of Africa' explanation.
Despite numerous articles claiming an African origin, evidence suggests that the earliest hominins originated in Eurasia. Both body and trace fossils indicate a Miocene hominid presence in Europe. There are sure to be messy, complicated webs to untangle when it comes to ancient human predecessors millions of years in the making.

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