Wednesday, July 27, 2016

New Laetoli footprints?

A cast of one of the original Laetoli footprints on display at the NMNH, Washington, DC
I just noticed a few interesting stories about an announcement from Tanzania that a second set of australopith tracks has been discovered about 60 meters from the original Laetoli footprint trails.  The Laetoli tracks were discovered in 1978 by a team led by Mary Leakey.  The trackways are about 90 feet long with about 70 prints.  The feet are small and the stride is short, and they are typically attributed to an australopith.  The prints were made in volcanic ash, and have been dated to 3.6 million radiometric years.

According to a report on AllAfrica,
The second major discovery is in several trails of footprints, located in one trackway, dated 3.7 million years' old of hominin footprints, about 60 metres from the first discovery of Dr Leakey in 1978.
According to this report on Coastweek, Tanzania wants to raise money to build a museum over the site.  There isn't much more information that I could find at this point.

I'll be very interested to see more details on these new prints.  I'm honestly not sure what to make of the original Laetoli prints.  Ten years ago, I would have said they were prints of australopiths, but since working on hominin baraminology, I'm not so sure we can tell the difference between human and australopith just from their footprints.  Certainly, habilissediba, and naledi humans probably had very different gaits from us modern humans (or even erectus humans).

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