A set of ancient footprints in Greece are causing some scientists to question the current form of the theory of human evolution.
The prints were discovered in Trachilos, on the Greek island of Crete, by Gerard Gierlinski, the lead author of a paper describing them. Apparently made on the island’s sandy beaches, they are 5.7 million years old and apparently human, despite the fact at this point our ancestors are believed to have been confined to Africa, and to have had more apelike feet.
These Prints Are 2 Million Years Older Than Scientists Believed
Before now, the earliest signs of human-shaped feet that we had were the Laetoli footprints, made in volcanic ash about 3.7 million years ago and found in Tanzania.
Meanwhile, the fossils we have of Ardipithecus ramidus, in Ethiopia, are 4.4 million years old and have apelike footprints. This would seem to imply that the human foot evolved sometime between these points, and wholly on the continent of Africa.
The Footprints Provide Important Clues Regarding Modern Human Evolution
Until now, the theory of human evolution said that Ardipithecus ramidus was our ancestor. But these new prints, at 5.7 million years old, imply that more anatomically modern humans already existed a million years before those fossils, making Ardipithecus ramidus more like a cousin.
Geographically they greatly confuse things: these new prints are only slightly younger than the oldest known hominid fossils, and date millions of years before humans were thought to have left Africa.
There are several differences between the apelike foot of the older hominids and modern humans. Like modern great apes, these feet resemble human hands, with a hallux (big toe) that sticks out to the side like a thumb, as opposed to the human hallux, positioned like the other toes but larger.
The Crete prints also have a ball on the sole that no apelike foot has, and overall resemble the humanlike Laetoli prints.