Little Foot Skeleton Unveiled; Oldest, Most Complete Found

James Marshall
December 6, 2017

The recent unveiling of a complete hominid skeleton dating back 3.67 million years is set to increase our understanding of the events that led up to humanity as we know it, and gives us a peek at what life was like before we were around. The painstaking process of excavation, cleaning, reconstruction, casting and analysis took 20 years.

Scientists at Wits University have unveiled the skeleton of Little Foot.

Palaeoanthropologist Professor Ron Clarke unveiled for the first time to the public, the Little Foot fossilised hominid skeleton at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, Dec. 6, 2017.

Ron Clarke, a palaeoanthropologist at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, first came across the fragile foot bones in 1994 while sorting through boxes of other fossils recovered from the Sterkfontein caves.

Although modern civilization has only been around for a couple thousand years, the existence of humankind and our predecessors extend back multiple millions of years.

Though the age of the bones is up for debate, the team of scientists in South Africa says the bones are approximately 3.67 million years old, which make "Little Foot" the oldest known remains of the ancient human species.

Remarkably human-like, the fossil is a hominin, a species which predates humans. It has been an extraordinarily long process because the skeleton was encased in concrete-like breccia.

"This is a landmark achievement for the global scientific community and South Africa's heritage", said Habib.

Speaking at the unveiling of the remains, Clarke said, per the Mail and Guardian, "This is of course the culminating find of my career, in terms of the greatness of the specimen". "My assistants and I have worked on painstakingly cleaning the bones from breccia blocks and reconstructing the full skeleton until the present day". Among its many initiatives aimed at uplifting the origin sciences across Africa, PAST has been a major funder of research at Sterkfontein for over two decades. The finding will surely help to reinforce numerous theories of human evolution that pin Africa as the cradle of humanity.

The scientific value of the find and much more will be unveiled in a series of papers that Prof Clarke and a team of worldwide experts have been preparing, with many expected in the next year.

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