More than 50 footprints have been found in the sand on the Greek Island of Crete and they are exceptionally old. While they were initially discovered in 2017, they have since been analyzed and confirmed as being more than 6 million years old. This means that they are the oldest ever footprints found of pre-humans (predecessors of early humans).
A team of international researchers from Greece, Germany, England, Egypt, and Sweden, which was led by Tübingen scientists Uwe Kirscher and Madelaine Böhme of the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution and Palaeoenvironment at the University of Tübingen, confirmed that the footprints were made by pre-humans.
The prints were fossilized in beach sediments and were discovered close to the west Cretan village of Trachilos. After their discovery, experts used micropaleontological and geophysical techniques in order to date them back to 6.05 million years ago.
This discovery has certainly provided experts with quite valuable information regarding the early evolution of using feet to move around as described by Per Ahlberg who is a professor at Uppsala University, “The oldest human foot used for upright walking had a ball, with a strong parallel big toe, and successively shorter side toes,” adding, “The foot had a shorter sole than Australopithecus. An arch was not yet pronounced and the heel was narrower.”
To put this into better perspective, the footprints are millions of years older than those made by the same species as the famous Lucy. “The tracks are almost 2.5 million years older than the tracks attributed to Australopithecus afarensis (Lucy) from Laetoli in Tanzania,” explained Uwe Kirscher. Furthermore, the tracks found in Crete are from the same time period as previous fossils found in Kenya belonging to the upright-walking species of Orrorin tugenensis; however, only femurs were found but no foot bones or even footprints.
Additionally, since Crete was connected to the Greek mainland 6 million years ago, the footprints could have been made by a pre-human species called Graecopithecus freybergi. In fact, remains belonging to the species were previously discovered in Athens, Greece, that dated back 7.2 million years. The study was published in Scientific Reports where it can be read in full.
A photo of one of the footprints can be seen here.
Interestingly, this news comes just days after it was reported that ancient footprints found in New Mexico that date back 23,000 years could be the earliest evidence of humans inhabiting the Americas.