A much older human ancestor
A set of human-like footprints dating to 5.7 million years ago, discovered on the Greek island of Crete, challenge existing theories of how and when our species evolved. Prior to this discovery, the oldest confirmed hominin footprints were found in Tanzania and dated at a maximum of 3.65 million years. Anthropologists believed these ancient human relatives were isolated in Africa for several million years before spreading out to Europe and Asia. A new analysis of the prints found in Crete could complicate this evolutionary tale. “What makes this controversial is the age and location of the prints,” researcher Per Ahlberg tells ScienceDaily.com. At the time the prints were made, nearly 6 million years ago, Crete was still part of the Greek mainland and early human ancestors were theoretically still living in Africa and had ape-like feet. The fossils in Crete, however, have distinctly hominin-like features, including a predominant “big toe.” The animal didn’t have claws and walked upright on the soles of its feet—not its toes. “This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate,” Ahlberg says.