Earliest modern gait found in ancient footprints

More than a million years ago an ancient human ancestor walked across a sandy plain in eastern Africa, leaving footprints that scientists are now hailing as the earliest evidence of modern upright walking.

The footprints, dated to between 1.51 million and 1.53 million years ago, were discovered at Ileret, Kenya, researchers report in Friday's edition of the journal Science.

With a large toe parallel to the other toes, the prints indicate a modern upright stride, the researchers said. They are likely to have been made by the early hominid Homo ergaster or early Homo erectus.

Older footprints, dating to 3.6 million years ago found in Tanzania have been attributed to the less advanced Australopithecus afarensis. Those prints indicate an upright posture but with a shallower arch and a more ape-like, divergent big toe.

"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," Emma Mbua of the National Museums of Kenya, said in a statement.

The lead researcher was Matthew R. Bennett of Bournemouth University in Britain. Others taking part included John W. K. Harris of Rutgers University and Brian G. Richmond of The George Washington University and the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History.

null
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: In this stock image, a lumberjack is pictured.
Joze Pojbic/Getty Images
PHOTO: The tires of a Studebaker, missing since 1971, are visible in Brule Creek near Elk Point, S.D. in this undated file photo.
South Dakota Attorney General?s Office/AP Photo
PHOTO: Left, an undated file photo provided by the Spokane County Sheriff shows Bombing Kevin William Harpham; right, in this undated photo provided by the Johnson County Sheriff, Frazier Glenn Cross, Jr., appears in a booking photo.
Spokane County Sheriff/AP Photo| Johnson County Sheriff via Getty Images