“The Naked Ape” – from animal to human in Africa

Feet-Laetoli

One of the most touching finds of a very early human-like presence are two sets of footprints found in Tanzania. They were made roughly 3.7 million years ago.

The human-like footprints were imprinted in the volcanic ash deposited by a nearby active volcano. Two persons (a grown-up and a child) walked there, leaving their footprints at the site of Laetoli in Tanzania, east Africa, 45 km south of the Olduvai Gorge.

The body height of the larger individual has been calculated from the length of pace and size of foot to have been 1.34 to 1.56 m. There are no signs of walking on knuckles as apes would do.

The prints were made by an adult and a child, with the child walking inside the footsteps of the adult . The tracks on the right are those of small antelopes. A brief rainstorm also left some small craters caused by big raindrops before the active volcano erupted and buried it all under large amounts of ash.

It is possible that the remains of the two are still nearby, buried under the ash where they fell not long afterwards.

The species that made the footprints cannnot be identified with certainty but the two pre-humans could possibly have been our remote direct ancestors – or at least be among the ancestors of one of the more-or-less human-like species that proliferated in Africa for several millions of years later.

The most likely candidate species for the walkers in the ash is Australopithecus afarensis who is known to have lived in the area 3.2 million years ago).

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