1.5 million year footprints show human ancestor with modern stride

February 27, 2009

(ChattahBox) — 1.5 million year footprints like those found in wet sand, were discoverd in northern Kenya and most likely were left by a human ancestor called Homo erectus, scientists said on Thursday in the journal Science. The species Homo erectus had a smaller brain than modern people but had generally similar body proportions to Homo sapiens.

The footprints found in sedimentary rock near Ileret show that a human ancestor walked like we do with anatomically modern feet, with a big toe parallel to the other toes, unlike that of other apes where it is separated in a grasping configuration useful in the trees. The footprints show a characteristic human-like arch and short toes, typically associated with an upright bipedal stance. Our species, Homo sapiens, first appeared 200,000 years ago. But this shows that at least as far back as 1.5 million years ago, the human lineage walked with a modern stride, the researchers said.

The scientists found a series of footprints including one apparently left by a child, the size, spacing and depth of the footprint impressions allowed  estimations of weight, stride and gait, which all were found to be within the range of modern humans.

Judging from stride length, they estimated the individuals were about 5-foot-9 (1.75 meters) in height with size men’s nine foot.

These are the second-oldest known footprints of human ancestors. The oldest, found in Tanzania, date from about 3.75 million years ago and apparently were made by a much more primitive human ancestor called Australopithecus. These are smaller and show signs of bipedal posture but with a shallower arch and a more ape-like, divergent big toe.

Photo: MATTHEW BENNETT/BOUMEMOUTH UNIVERSITY


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