Scientists in East Africa have discovered new footprints of our early human ancestors at a site in the village of Laetoli, Tanzania. According to Forbes, the site of the new discovery is about 150 metres from the location where world-renowned paleoanthropologist Mary Leakey found footprints of the hominins Australopithecus afarensis in 1976.
The research, which is a collaboration between a team of scientists from Tanzania and Italy, revealed the footprints of a group of early ancestors as they walked across wet volcanic ash 3.6 million years ago.
According to science publisher elife, the latest discovery builds on Leakey’s landmark discovery and attempts to shed more light on how members of the Australopithecus afarensis community lived.
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Lead researcher from the University of Florence, Jacopo Moggi-Cecchi, describes the find as very promising.
“Now that we’ve found a new set of footprints, it opens up a completely different window and there could be a number of new possibilities to study. Now we have a new series of quantitative data, and [their] step and stride length can help us figure out how large these individuals were.”
Scientists believe the footprints belonged to a group that consisted of an adult male walking alongside comparatively smaller females.
Director of the School of Paleoanthropology at the University of Perugia, Marco Cherin, said, “A tentative conclusion is that the group consisted of one male, two or three females, and one or two juveniles, which leads us to believe that the male – and therefore other males in the species – had more than one female mate.”
Also weighing in, Professor Giorgio Manzi from the archaeological project in Tanzania said, “The footprints of one of the new individuals are astonishingly larger than anyone else’s in the group, suggesting that he was a large male member of the species.
“In fact, the 165 centimeters stature indicated by his footprints makes him the largest Australopithecus specimen identified to date.”