Earliest modern-looking human footprints

04 March 2009

The earliest modern-looking human footprints have been uncovered in Kenya, scientists report in the journal Science.

1.5-million-year-old human footprint found at Ileret in Kenya

© Professor Matthew Bennett, Bournemouth University

They are about 1.5 million years old and show evidence of a human foot and a modern human style of walking.

Scientists think they were made by an ancient human relative, Homo erectus, a species that lived in Africa long before our species, Homo sapiens.

Comparing footprints

Matthew Bennett of Bournemouth University and his team took laser scans of the footprints found at Ileret, in northern Kenya, and compared the resulting 3D models and information with those from modern humans. They found them to be very similar to ours.

‘These new prints confirm that the human pattern of walking was established nearly two million years ago,’ says Professor Chris Stringer, human origins expert at Natural History Museum.

‘This is valuable information, since we still lack well-preserved foot skeletons of the species concerned, Homo erectus.’

Oldest footprints

The oldest footprints from a human relative are dated at about 3.6 million years old and were found at Laetoli in Tanzania in 1978.

These have been attributed to Australopithecus afarensis, a more ancient human relative that walked upright.

However, the Laetoli footprints do not show evidence of a modern human way of walking, like the new finds do.

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