Ancient footprints discovered in northern Kenya are believed to be the oldest sign that early humans had feet like ours and the way of walking of modern humans. The footprints were found in two sedimentary layers, 1.5 million years old, near Ileret.
"The Ileret footprints constitute the oldest evidence of an essentially modern human-like foot anatomy," according to the international team led by Matthew Bennett and John Harris who detailed the discovery in the February 27, 2009 issue of the journal Science. The ongoing excavation project is run in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya.
"In these specimens, the big toe is parallel to the other toes, unlike that of apes where it is separated in a grasping configuration useful in the trees. The footprints show a pronounced human-like arch and short toes, typically associated with an upright bipedal stance," the scientists said. "The size, spacing and depth of the impressions were the basis of estimates of weight, stride and gait, all found to be within the range of modern humans." The big toe is parallel to the other toes, unlike apes, whose big toes are separated to help grasping tree branches. The Ileret footprints also show a pronounced arch and short toes that are human-like and are usually associated with the ability to walk on two feet.
The size and other characteristics of the prints led the authors to conclude the prints belonged to the hominid Homo ergaster, or early Homo erectus. This is the first hominid to have had the same body proportions - longer legs and shorter arms - as the modern Homo sapiens.
The findings represent the oldest evidence of modern-human foot anatomy. “These footprints are one of the most important discoveries of recent years, and the museum is doing everything possible to ensure the safety of this unique site,” said Emma Mbua of the National Musuems of Kenya. “We hope to bring this discovery to worldwide audiences in the future.”
I am off to wash my feet, and go for a nice pedicure. Kenyan feet are valuable, and they need to be taken care of in the best possible ways...
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