Big NY Times Science Story TODAY: 1.5 Million Year Old Proto-Human Footprints Discovered in Kenya

Can we put the inanities of young earth creationism to bed now? And can we finally just admit the obvious—that, yes, we descended from ape-like ancestors?

The NY Times reports today that, in Kenya over the past three years, proto-human footprints (almost certainly belonging to the species Homo erectus) have been unearthed, and they reveal bipedal walking and running akin to modern humans.

In other words, more than a million years before there were modern Homo sapiens walking bipedally in Africa, there were Homo erectuses, with substantially smaller brains, doing so.

Put bluntly: human beings are the descendents of ape men not all that much different (in their walking or appearance) from the ones depicted in the Planet of the Apes movies.

Money quote:

Studying the more than a dozen erectus prints, scientists determined that the individuals had heels, insteps and toes almost identical to those in humans, and they walked with a long stride similar to human locomotion.

The researchers who made the discovery, as well as independent specialists in human origins, said the prints helped explain fossil and archaeological evidence that erectus had adapted the ability for long-distance walking and running. Erectus skeletons from East Asia revealed that the species, or a branch of it, had migrated out of Africa as early as 1.8 million years ago.

The lead author of the journal report is Matthew R. Bennett, a dean at Bournemouth University in England, who analyzed the prints with a new laser technology for digitizing their precise depths and contours. The tracks were excavated over the last three years by paleontologists and students directed by John W. K. Harris of Rutgers University in collaboration with the National Museums of Kenya.

Daniel E. Lieberman, a professor of biological anthropology at Harvard who studies the evolution of human locomotion but was not a member of the research group, said the prints established what experts had suspected for some time. Erectus, he said, “probably looked much like us, both walking and running over long distances.”

Although the discoverers were cautious in attributing the prints to Homo erectus, Dr. Lieberman and other experts said in interviews that it was highly unlikely they could have been made by other known hominid contemporaries.

“The prints are what you would expect from the erectus skeleton we have,” said Leslie C. Aiello, president of the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, which supported the research. “We are seeing erectus in motion.”

William L. Junger, a paleoanthropologist at Stony Brook University in New York, said the footprints were further evidence that erectus had “undergone a major structural change in body plan, and it’s much like our own.” One obvious exception: the erectus brain, though advanced from previous ancestors, was still well below the size of the Homo sapiens brain.

No erectus foot bones have been found anywhere, but other well-preserved skeletons showed the species to be taller and less robust than earlier hominids. The strides of these footsteps suggest that the individuals were an average of 5 feet, 7 inches tall; one, presumably a child, was 3 feet.

Read the whole article here.

About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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3 Responses to Big NY Times Science Story TODAY: 1.5 Million Year Old Proto-Human Footprints Discovered in Kenya

  1. John Umana says:

    These are remarkable and exciting new anthropological finds at Ileret, Kenya. Yet, these 1.5 Ma footprints are the footprints of a pre-human hominin, Homo erectus, not our species, Homo sapiens. What is particularly significant is that the 1.5 Ma footprints of this prior species are indicative of modern human foot anatomy. Homo erectus was evolved about 2 million years ago in Africa. Nariokotome boy (KNM-WT 1500), a “missing link” stumbled across in 1984 in Lake Turkana, Kenya is an example of Homo erectus or Homo ergaster also 1.5 million years ago. That child’s eye sockets were overshadowed by a brow ridge, a ridge of bone that gave the skull a glowering expression, and there was a low, receding forehead leading to a long and flat crown. The boy had a tall, thin muscular physique, suited for radiating heat from his body in equatorial Africa. Even millions of years before that, Australopithecenes also were walking about on two feet, though their foot anatomy was quite different from erectus or our own. It is not that people adapted to equatorial climates by becoming tall and slender, or that people adapted to cold climates by becoming short and stocky. Rather, the Force tailors peoples and species to their environments and conditions. Creation: Towards a Theory of All Things by John Umana (amazon). When it came to feet, though, there was no need for the Force to ‘reinvent the wheel’ from the foot anatomy of Homo erectus in subsequent evolutions of Homo heidelbergensis and Homo sapiens. The feet you are walking around on today are essentially the feet that erectus had 1.5 million years ago. They were designed for long-distance walking and running. Erectus walked upright as we do, communicated with each other but did not have language; they were scavengers. Did we evolve from Homo erectus? No. But we did evolve 200,000 years ago in east Africa from another species that was evolved from erectus. Biological evolution and common ancestry are real and proved by the convergence of the sciences. Darwin and Wallace were correct in theorizing that all species descend from prior species. The question is, what is the causative mechanism for the evolution of a new species from a prior species? What we need is more and better science, not reliance on 19th century conjecture.

  2. santitafarella says:

    John Umana:

    You said: “The feet you are walking around on today are essentially the feet that erectus had 1.5 million years ago.”

    That was a cool reflection. I hadn’t thought about it that way.


  3. John Umana says:

    Thanks, Santi. And it tells us alot about evolution of a new species. Not everything changes, in this case, the feet remained the same through successive evolutions. How likely would that be if ‘natural selection’ were the explantion for the origin of new species?

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