While we find older bones all the time, they are still very limited, making it difficult to analyze and catalog fossil finds in one of the many species of Homo, Graecopithecus, and all kinds in between.
But the bones aren’t the only traces left by our Hominin ancestors – in some cases their footprints have been preserved in the sand.
As reported in 2017, a team of researchers found and analyzed a series of more than 50 footprints on Trachiolos beach on the Greek island of Crete, believed to have been potentially left behind by an ancient hominid-like creature from 5 years ago. , 7 million years ago.
A new study published this week now suggests that these hominid-like traces are even older – potentially as old as 6.05 million years old, making them 350,000 years older than originally thought.
There is no evidence of Homo sapiens in the fossil record anywhere before 300,000 years ago, and even our sister species Homo neanderthalensis only appeared about 430,000 years agoSo here we are talking about our great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-rear-8th ancestors (probably a few other bigger) ancestors.
Australopithecus afarensis, an ancient primate better known from a preserved skeleton nicknamed Lucy, lived 3.9 million years ago, so we are getting closer to the age range there.
In fact, this imprint is so old that the team suggests that Graecopithecus freybergi, a primate whose dental specimens are thought to be 7.2 million years old (and potentially the oldest direct ancestor of man, shortly after our lineage split from chimpanzees) might have something to do with footprints.
“We cannot exclude a link between the producer of the pieces and the possible pre-human Graecopithecus freybergi, ” said Madelaine Böhme, paleontologist from the University of Tübingen.
All of these ancient hominids would have had feet that differed in characteristics when we stepped away from swinging in trees to walk upright full time, and the footprints allow us to analyze where we were in that process.
“This morphology includes characters that are currently considered [to] be unique to hominids such as the presence of a ball of the forefoot, a non-divergent and robust hallux placed next to the numeral II on the distal edge of the plant, and the numerals II to IV becoming progressively shorter, ” the team writes.
“These are combined with generic primate traits such as the lack of a longitudinal medial arch, a proportionately shorter sole, and a heel that is not bulbous.”
However, not everyone agrees that this is an ancient hominid, and when it comes to footprints, it can sometimes be difficult to confirm an answer.
“This interpretation has been controversial, and several counter-interpretations have been made”, the team writes.
“For example, Meldrum and Sarmiento suggested that the traces of Trachilos could have been made by a non-hominin primate with an adducted hallux and they illustrated this by referring to a gorilla footprint. “
But the researchers maintain that none of the arguments have ruled out that these traces belong to a primitive human ancestor like G. freybergi.
The dating of the fossil print was also questioned. The researchers therefore set out to search specifically for the date of this site in the Platanos basin and the Vrysses group of northwest Crete.
Using paleomagnetic and micropaleontological methods at Trachiolos beach, the team analyzed 57 samples, which dated footprints older than expected, around 6.05 million years ago.
These footprints, in case you forgot, were found on the island of Crete – not in Africa. Although Crete would have been reattached to mainland Greece at this point, it raises even more questions about where ancient hominids first evolved and adds some doubt to what is commonly referred to as Theory “outside Africa”.
As the researchers explain in their paper, “The evolutionary history and dispersal patterns of hominids are matters of debate.”
“Despite numerous publications suggesting an origin in Africa, there is evidence that the earliest hominids may have evolved in Eurasia. they add.
When it comes to ancient human ancestors who built themselves millions of years ago, there are bound to be complicated and complicated webs to unravel.
Looks like we’re still finding out just how tangled up our family tree can be.
The research was published in Scientific reports.