Meet "Little Foot": A Nearly-Completed Fossil of Our 3.6-Million-Year-Old Ancestor

Khryss | Published 2017-12-15 10:56

There have long been fossilised discoveries about our ancestors. However, most of these discoveries are just a piece of bone, or a skull or parts of a skeleton, as in the case of Lucy, the Australopithecus afarensis found in Ethiopia.

But now, for the first time, a 3.67 million year old near-complete skeleton has been shown to the public! Dubbed “Little Foot”, the Australopithecus prometheus fossil was unveiled on December 6, 2017 at the Hominin Vault at the University of the Witwatersrand's Evolutionary Studies Institute in Johannesburg, South Africa.

First found in Sterkfontein Caves in South Africa in 1994, Ron Clarke, a paleoanthropologist who helped discover Little Foot, and other researchers have been looking for clues and preparing the fossils for display. “The name ‘Little Foot’ was initially given to four foot bones that I found in a box of animal fossils at Sterkfontein in 1994. And Prof. Philip Tobias said ‘Oh what a little foot ha ha ha that’s a good name,” said Clarke.

"It has a lot of firsts," Clarke tells Eyewitness News. "It's the first complete skeleton adult, it is the first skeleton that has a complete arm and a complete leg in one individual that can be compared, and it is the oldest in Southern Africa." After cleaning and reconstructing, the skeleton has more than 90 percent of its bones present.

Finding fossilized skeletons are rare, even more so for near-complete ones. And especially that it’s older than Lucy, which is around 3.2 million years old, 40 percent complete and lacking a head, this discovery surely get the researchers intrigued.

Since this has a lot of firsts, a lot of studies will be releases soon, 25 scientific papers to be exact. These studies will be published in 2018. "This is one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries made in the history of human origins research," Clarke says in a press release. "And it is a privilege to unveil a finding of this importance today." I bet they could lead us more into humanity’s missing link.

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