5.7 million-year-old human-like footprints discovered in Greece

Ever since the discovery of fossils of Australopithecus in South and East Africa during the middle years of the 20th century, the origin of the human lineage has been thought to lie in Africa.

5.7 million-year-old human-like footprints discovered in Greece
Representational image

New Delhi: Dating back to 5.7 million years, scientists have managed to discover human-like footprints in Greece that could possibly challenge early human evolution.

Ever since the discovery of fossils of Australopithecus in South and East Africa during the middle years of the 20th century, the origin of the human lineage has been thought to lie in Africa.

More recent fossil discoveries in the same region, such as the 3.7 million-year-old Laetoli footprints from Tanzania which show human-like feet and upright locomotion, have cemented the idea that hominins originated in Africa and remained isolated there for several million years before.

The discovery of the 5.7 million-year-old human-like footprints by researchers at the Uppsala University in Sweden overthrows this simple picture and suggests a complex reality.

Human feet have a very distinctive shape, different from all other land animals. The combination of a long sole, five short forward-pointing toes without claws, and a hallux ("big toe") that is larger than the other toes, is unique.

The feet of our closest relatives, the great apes, look more like a human hand with a thumb-like hallux that sticks out to the side.

The Laetoli footprints, thought to have been made by Australopithecus, are quite similar to those of modern humans except that the heel is narrower and the sole lacks a proper arch.

By contrast, the 4.4 million-year-old Ardipithecus ramidus from Ethiopia, the oldest hominin known from reasonably complete fossils, has an ape-like foot.

(With PTI inputs)

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