Little Foot skeleton revealed

08 Décembre, 2017, 00:38 | Auteur: Anatole Charbonneau
  • One Little Foot for SA, one big step in understanding our humanity

"If that one small bone wouldn't have been found then we wouldn't have Little Foot", he said.

Both Little Foot and Lucy belong to the same genus - Australopithecus - but they are different species.

The skeleton is probably 3.6 million years old and is expected to help researchers understand our ancestors' appearance and movement.

"Little Foot" was first discovered by paleoanthropologist Ronald J. Clarke in 1994 while he was sorting bones found in the Sterkfontein caves, located about 23 miles northwest of Johannesburg, South Africa.

Ron Clarke, a professor from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at the University of the Witwatersrand, center, speaks during the unveiling of the fossil.

Twenty years after the initial discovery, the process of excavation, cleaning, reconstruction, casting, imaging and analysis is complete, and researchers are ready to reveal Little Foot to the world.

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

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The man behind the epic discovery, Professor Ron Clarke, said Little Foot was nicknamed by Professor Phillip Tobias.

Within two days of searching in July 1997, they had found a match.

They were among other fossils removed from rock blasted from the caves years earlier by miners. The results of these studies are expected to be published in a series of scientific papers in high-impact, peer-reviewed worldwide journals in the near future. Much of the work was done deep inside the cave system, working away at concrete-like rock called breccia, using air scribes to avoid breaking the fragile and priceless fossil remains. Large blocks of the breccia, in which the skeleton was embedded, were painstakingly removed from the cave.

Professor Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor and Principal of the University of the Witwatersrand says: "This is a landmark achievement for the global scientific community and South Africa's heritage".

The discovery is a source of pride for Africans, said Robert Blumenschine, chief scientist with the organization that funded the excavation, the Paleontological Scientific Trust (PAST).

Clarke said every hominid fossil that was discovered was important to the understanding of our ancestors. "Not only is Africa the storehouse of the ancient fossil heritage for people the world over, it was also the wellspring of everything that makes us human, including our technological prowess, our artistic ability, and our supreme intellect", he says.

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