Prints Show a Modern Foot in Prehumans
By JOHN NOBLE WILFORD
Published: February 26, 2009
Footprints uncovered in Kenya show that as early as 1.5 million years ago an ancestral species, almost certainly Homo erectus, had already evolved the feet and walking gait of modern humans. An international team of scientists, in a report on Friday in the journal Science, said the well-defined prints in an eroding bluff east of Lake Turkana “provided the oldest evidence of an essentially modern humanlike foot anatomy.” They said the find also added to evidence that painted a picture of Homo erectus as the prehumans who took long evolutionary strides — figuratively and, now it seems, also literally.
Until now, no footprint trails had ever been associated with early members of our long-legged genus Homo. Preserved ancient footprints of any kind are rare. The only earlier prints of a protohuman species were found in 1978 at Laetoli, in Tanzania. Dated at 3.7 million years ago, they were made by Australopithecus afarensis, the diminutive species to which the famous Lucy skeleton belonged. The prints showed that the species already walked upright, but its short legs and long arms and its feet were in many ways apelike. More evidence that the brain evolved last. Or was created by God last, if that’s your viewpoint. Was it an afterthought? An incidental improvement that just happened? What was Homo Erectus thinking about with her tiny brain? If there was ever a fascinating question, that’s it. How much of our complex modern behavior happened in a very short period of time? Any why?