Evolution Of Man: Archeologists Unearthed Fossilized Footprints Of Human Ancestors In Tanzania

First Posted: Dec 15, 2016 04:56 AM EST

While excavating the proposed site of a museum in Tanzania, archeologists discovered the footprints of five human ancestors, who walked on the face of the Earth about 3.6 million years ago. The footprints were made on a layer of volcanic ash, which was dampened by the ancient African rains. Archeologists made a careful analysis on the pattern of the footprints and predicted the sex, age, height, weight and species to which they most likely belonged to.

The footprints excavated were of five individuals traveling together. The group included one male along with three females and a child, who walked alongside for at least 30 meters. All the individuals belonged to the Australopithecus afarensis, a species of hairy bipedal ape, reported The Guardian. Fossils belonging to this particular species have already been excavated in Ethiopia. "Lucy," the most famous member of the Australopithecus afarensis was discovered by famous archeologist Mary Leakey in Ethiopia in the 1970s.

Marco Cherin, palaeontologist at the University of Perugia, Italy, helped in excavating the footprints and said, "When we reached the footprint layer and started to clean it with a soft brush and saw the footprints for the first time, it was really one of the most exciting times of my life."

Giorgio Manzi, Director, Archaeological project in Tanzania, said that the discovery suggests that many human ancestors moved through the landscape after a volcanic eruption, leaving footprints on the layer of volcanic ash. He 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 165cm stature indicated by his footprints makes him the largest Australopithecus specimen identified to date."

Mathematical models and calculations were used to predict the height and weight of the individuals who made the footprints. Scientists believe that the male was about 165 cm (5 feet 5 inches) tall and weighed around 48.1 kg.

The present discovery also supports the theory that human ancestors of Australopithecus afarensis species were polygynous, i.e., the males had many female partners at once and they all lived in groups, same as the present day gorillas, reported BBC News.

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."

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