Human-like footprints uncovered in the Grecian island of Crete could alter the way scientists view human evolution, according to a new study published in the Proceedings of Geologists’ Association.
Most of the time, it is hard to identify ancient animal prints. Not only does time wear them down, but there are many common characteristics shared among different species. However, as the human foot is so distinct, it is much easier to identify. It is that uniqueness that has scientists excited about the new findings in Crete.
The team of international researchers that first discovered the prints state that not only do the 5.7-million-year-old markings have no claws and a big toe in line with the axis of the foot, but they also have a shape and form that is similar to modern human feet. In addition, there are also no other markings in the area. This suggests they must have come from a bipedal creature that walked upright, Tech Times reports.
“There’s something slightly funny about the big toe,” said study co-author Per Ahlberg, a researcher at Uppsala University, Sweden, according to New Scientist. “Its position and shape are very similar to those of a modern human, but it seems to be more mobile,”
The reason this observation is so important is because scientists currently believe the first humans originated in Ethiopia. In fact, the earliest known hominin fossils have come from Chad, Kenya, and Ethiopia. From there, humans then spread around the world as the climate and landscape began to change.
However, the footsteps found in Africa only date back 3.66 million years. Not only that, but Crete was still apart of mainland Greece some 5 million years ago. As a result, human evolution in Europe may have come millions of years earlier than previously thought. If that is true, and if the new footsteps are human, it would completely rewrite the current timeline and alter the theories on how our species first began to populate the planet.
“What makes this controversial is the age and location of the prints,” added Ahlberg, according to Economic Times.
While the new finding is exciting, the team needs more information on the prints before any definitive conclusions can be reached. They plan to further study the fossils as well as the area around them to see if they can unearth any other clues about early human evolution.