These Footprints Are Shaking Our Understanding of Human Evolution
Their findings will likely prove controversial, researchers write.
According to the established timeline, hominids didn’t leave Africa until 1.75 million years ago. Homo ergaster ("working man") was thought to be the first to make it to Southern Eurasia. It used primitive stone tools, which is where it got its name. Some scientists believe this is actually a subspecies of Homo erectus (“upright man”) who lived about 1.89 million to 143,000 years ago. A new discovery in Greece however is challenging our current understanding and may sow controversy within the paleontological community.
While on vacation in 2002, paleontologist Gerard Gierlinski of the Polish Geological Institute noticed something strange. He was in an area called Trachilos on the western side of the Isle of Crete, when he came across some fossilized footprints which he thought looked awfully human-like. Since then, they’ve been studied extensively and dated. The footprints appear to be approx. 5.7 million years old, far older than the species thought to be the first to appear with human-like feet.
Meanwhile, our ancestors didn’t come on the scene, so we thought, before 4.4 million years ago. This was Ardipithecus ramidus or “Ardi,” first discovered in the early 1990s in Ethiopia. Though it walked upright on land at times, it still had the type of big toe which allowed it to grasp branches, and so it must have also walked on all fours in the trees.
The oldest known human-like footprints previously were the Laetoli footprints of Tanzania. They’re 3.6 million years old and are thought to have been made by Australopithecus. This is the first evidence to show upright locomotion and human-like feet. Australopithecus is considered the intermediate between apes and us.
The Laetoli footprints of Tanzania. Wikimedia Commons.
In 2010, Gierlinski returned with a colleague, Polish paleontologist Grzegorz Niedzwiedzki, from Uppsala University in Sweden. They studied the impressions extensively. No ape could have made them. According to the Uppsala University press release, “Human feet have a very distinctive shape, different from all other land animals. The feet of our closest relatives, the great apes, look more like a human hand with a thumb-like [big toe] that sticks out to the side.”
Features that make our foot unique include a big sole, five forward-pointing toes with no claws, and a distinct hallux or big toe. These prints fit all of those features. The oldest, most complete hominid found to date is 4.4 million year-old Ardipithecus ramidus from Ethiopia. It had ape like feet. Remember, these prints are 5.7 million years old.
Australopithecus had a similar foot to ours. The only difference is the heel was smaller and it didn’t have a fully formed arch. This species lived in Eastern Africa from 3.85 to 2.95 million years ago, and so was far younger than whoever (or whatever) made the footprints on Crete. Of the two, scientists believe the Laetoli track-makers look a little more advanced than the Cretan.
The currently established timeline. By: Cruithne9 (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons.
Crete lies north of North Africa and south of the Greek peninsula. The prints were made during the Miocene geological period, at the time when the Messinian salinity crisis was in full swing. This was when the Mediterranean dried up, which took place between 5.96 and 5.33 million years ago. Crete was still attached to the Greek peninsula at the time via a land bridge. So whoever or whatever made these footprints must have followed game there from Europe. The land bridge disappeared five million years ago.
If they migrated out of Africa, they could have easily traveled across the Mediterranean, into the Levant (Israel, Lebanon, and Syria), Turkey, and even throughout the Southern Balkans, according to these scientists. The Sahara desert didn’t exist at the time. All of Northern Africa and the Eastern Mediterranean was savannah.
Another option is that some type of ancient hominid, or even a great ape we’re unaware of, developed human-like feet independently at that time. Scientists say the migration model is more likely. The findings of the international team who analyzed the footprints were published last August in the Proceedings of the Geologists' Association.
Could this be from an older hominid species we’ve never discovered before? By: Matheusvieeira via Wikimedia Commons.
These fossil footprints were dated using foraminifera (marine microfossils) from over and underlying beds in the sedimentary rock. The prints were in a very distinct layer, dating back 5.6 million years, when the Mediterranean Sea dried out, an event which geologically can be clearly distinguished.
This isn’t the only such discovery causing upheaval. Another team earlier this year found a piece of jawbone and some teeth from an unknown hominin species, currently being called Graecopithecus, as it was discovered in an area between the Balkans and Greece. These fossils were dated at 7.2 million years old.
Per Ahlberg at Uppsala University was the lead author in the footprint study. “What makes this controversial is the age and location of the prints,” he said. “This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate.” Whether or not these findings will be accepted in the paleontological community remains “unseen,” he said.
To see another such discovery which is changing what we know about human evolution, click here:
Researchers have just discovered the remains of a hybrid human.
90,000 years ago, a young girl lived in a cave in the Altai mountains in southern Siberia. Her life was short; she died in her early teens, but she stands at a unique point in human evolution. She is the first known hybrid of two different kinds of ancient humans: the Neanderthals and the Denisovans.
These thought leaders, founders, and entrepreneurs are propelling the kind of future we want to be a part of.
- The tech industry may be dominated by men in terms of numbers, but there are lots of brilliant women in leadership positions that are changing the landscape.
- The women on this list are founders of companies dedicated to teaching girls to code, innovators in the fields of AI, VR, and machine learning, leading tech writers and podcasters, and CEOs of companies like YouTube and Project Include.
- This list is by no means all-encompassing. There are many more influential women in tech that you should seek out and follow.
Most said they want to act on their desire someday. But do open relationships actually work?
- The study involved 822 Americans who were in monogamous relationships at the time.
- Participants answered questions about their personalities, sexual fantasies, and intentions to act on those fantasies.
- Research suggests practicing consent, comfort, and communication makes open relationships more likely to succeed.
Consensual non-monogamy fantasies<p>For the new study, published in <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s10508-020-01788-7" target="_blank">Archives of Sexual Behavior</a>, researchers asked 822 people in monogamous relationships to:</p><ul><li>Describe their favorite sexual fantasy, defined as "mental images you have while you are awake that you find to be sexually arousing or erotic."</li><li>Select which themes apply to that fantasy, such as having sex with multiple people at the same time, experimenting with taboos, or engaging in a sexually open relationship.</li><li>Answer whether they intended to carry out these fantasies, and discuss them with their partner.</li><li>Complete assessments on relationship satisfaction, erotophilia and personality, as measured by the Big Five Personality inventory.</li></ul><p>The results showed that 32.6 percent of participants said being part of a sexually open relationship was "part of their favorite sexual fantasy of all time." More surprising is that, of that one-third, 80 percent said they want to act on this fantasy in the future.</p>
Pretzelpaws via Wikipedia Commons<p style="margin-left: 20px;">"The present research confirms the important distinction between sexual fantasy and sexual desire in that not everyone wanted to act on their favorite sexual fantasy of all time," study author Justin J. Lehmiller told <a href="https://www.psypost.org/2020/09/one-third-of-people-in-monogamous-relationships-fantasize-about-being-in-some-type-of-open-relationship-study-suggests-58102" target="_blank">PsyPost</a>. "This suggests that fantasies may serve different functions for different people."</p><p>Even though most participants said they want to act out their fantasy in the future, far fewer reported acting out sexual fantasies in the past. Other findings included:</p><ul><li>Men were more likely to fantasize about CNMRs.</li><li>So were people who scored high in <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Erotophilia#:~:text=Erotophilia%20is%20a%20personality%20trait,ranging%20from%20erotophobia%20to%20erotophilia." target="_blank">erotophilia</a> and sociosexual orientation.</li><li>The psychological predictors of fantasizing about CNMRs differed from predictors about infidelity fantasies.</li></ul>
Do open relationships work?<p>A <a href="https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/00224499.2019.1669133" target="_blank">2019 study</a> from psychologists at the University of Rochester suggests it <em>is </em>possible<em>, </em>but especially when both partners practice a trio of behaviors: consent, communication, and comfort — or, the Triple-C Model.<br></p>But the study also suggests not all forms of open relationships are equally viable. For example, people in one-sided CNMRs — where one partner stays monogamous, the other seeks outside sexual relationships — were nearly three times more dissatisfied in their relationships than the monogamous group <em>and </em>the consensual non-monogamous group.
The results of this study showed depressive symptoms being highest in adolescence, declining in early adulthood and then climbing back up again into one's early 30s.