These prehistoric human footprints were discovered in Crete four years ago by an international team of researchers. According to analyzes, we now learn that they are at least six million years old.
The oldest known hominid footprints have been found on the Mediterranean island of Crete. These traces from fossilized beach sediments were found near the village of Trachilos, in the west of the island.
They were brought to light in 2017 by researchers from Germany, Sweden, Greece, Egypt and England, led by scientists Uwe Kirscher and Madelaine Böhme, from the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the university of Tübingen.
Using cutting-edge scientific methods, researchers have now dated them to 6.05 million BCE, making them the oldest direct evidence of a human-like foot used for walking.
Long before Lucy’s first steps
“The traces are almost 2.5 million years older than those attributed to Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) from Laetoli in Tanzania,” explains Uwe Kirscher. This places the footprints of Trachilos at the same age as the fossils of the Orrorin tugenensis from Kenya, which walked upright. Finds related to this other bipedal include femurs, but there are no bones or foot prints.
The dating of Cretan footprints therefore sheds new light on the early evolution of human ambulation more than six million years ago. “The oldest human foot used for standing walking had a ball, with a strong, parallel big toe, and successively shorter lateral toes,” describes Per Ahlberg, professor at Uppsala University and co-author of the study. .
“The foot had a shorter sole than that of Australopithecus. An arch was not yet pronounced and the heel was narrower. ”
Six million years ago, Crete was connected to the Greek mainland by the Peloponnese. According to Professor Madelaine Böhme, “we cannot rule out a link between the producer of the traces and the possible pre-human Graecopithecus freybergi.”
Several years ago, Böhme’s team identified this previously unknown species in what is now Europe based on fossils from 7.2 million year old deposits in Athens. , just 250 kilometers away.
The study further confirms the recent research and theses of Böhme’s team, according to which, six million years ago, the European continent and the Near East were separated from humid East Africa by a relatively brief from the Sahara.
Geochemical analysis of the six-million-year-old beach deposits of Crete suggests that dust from the North African desert was blown there. The team came to an age of between 500 and 900 million years BCE, dating mineral grains the size of dust. According to the authors, these periods are typical of North African desert dust.