The fossil footprint is the oldest reference to a modern gait in early humans. Photo: Matthew Bennett, Bournemouth University
Reading aloud Early humans could already do exactly the same as today's humans 1.5 million years ago. This is suggested by fossil footprints in sediment layers from this period discovered by scientists at an excavation site near the town of Ileret in northern Kenya. The rare find suggests early modern humans to have all the characteristics of modern walking, the researchers report. The footprints touched with a laser indicate that this early human species must already have possessed a foot arch necessary for the upright walk. All toes were probably short, with the big toe in line with the other toes. In contrast, in monkeys, the big toe is splayed out so that the animals can better hold themselves in their natural habitat, the trees. As he walked, the cause of the old footprints, like modern man, shifted his weight from the heel over the ball of the foot to the big toe to repel. The footprints of Ileret are thus the oldest evidence of a modern human-like foot anatomy, the researchers write.

The footprints could ergaster from a representative of the hominid species Homo? better known as formerly Homo erectus? come. Various remains of these hominid species excavated by researchers in Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa date back to the same time as the footprints now discovered in Ileret.

Thirty-one years ago, scientists found footprints in Laetoli, Tanzania, which are 3.7 million years older than the Ileret footprints. The Laetoli footprints indicate already on an upright passage. The arch of the foot of a representative of the hominid species Australopithecus afarensis, however, is flatter and the big toe is rather like the monkey from.

Matthew Bennett (University of Bournemouth) et al .: Science, Vol. 323, p. 1197 ddp / Helmine Braitmaier ad


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