Discussions on the history and historiography of Australia's New England

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The fossil footprints of Trachilos date to c5.7 million years ago

The Trachilos Footprints

On Trachilos, Crete, 29 small fossil tracks were found made by someone walking upright. The footprints have remarkable human like characteristics. Now Professors Mathew Bennett (Bournemouth University) and Per Ahlberg (Uppsala University) report in The Conversation (1 September 2017, (Our controversial footprint discovery suggests human-like creatures may have roamed Crete nearly 6m years ago).that the footprints have been dated  to around 5.7 million years ago. At this point towards the end of the Miocene the Mediterranean Sea was apparently dry, with Crete linked to Greece with a very different environment from today.

The authors conclude:
If – and for many it is a big if – the tracks of Trachilos were indeed made by an early human ancestor, then the biogeographical range of our early ancestors would increase to encompass the eastern Mediterranean. 
In a later piece in The Conversation (4 September), Robin Crompton (University of Liverpool) and Susannah Thorpe (University of Birmingham) ask Ancient footprints in Crete challenge theory of human evolution – but what actually made them?

They note  that it looks as though the footprints may be hominin – a member of the human species after separation from the chimpanzee lineage."But, as the authors point out themselves, the findings are highly controversial – suggesting human ancestors may have existed in Crete at the same time as they evolved in Africa..........So what should we make of it all? If the footprints are confirmed to be from a hominin – additional studies are needed before we can know for sure – it is unquestionably exciting."

After discussing options and the need for further investigation of the findings, they conclude:
If all 50 of the Trachilos prints were made freely available to other scientists as high resolution laser scans, we would have a decent sample to assess their variability and compare them to other fossil and recent footprints and foot pressure records. And indeed, the researchers behind the study told The Conversation they are aiming to release all their data at some point. 
This would give us a good chance of saying who made them. As it stands, they could as well be those of gorillas – which separated from us over 10m years ago – as those of a member of our own human lineage such as Oreopithecus or Orrorin.

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