Scientists have recently discovered fossilized footprints on the Mediterranean island of Crete that might change the way we think about human evolution. These footprints are about 5.7 million years old, made at a time when we had previously established our early evolutionary African ancestors had ape-like feet.
As a matter fact, the African humanity lineage has been the common theory since the middle of the 20th century. At that time, it was the discovery of Australopithecus fossils in South Africa and East Africa which led to the conclusion. And with the discovery of other fossil discoveries in the same region, the theory continues to hold true. For example the famous find of a 3.7 million year old set of Laetoli footprints, in Tanzania, certainly suggests the presents of hominims; though these early ancestors probably came out of Europe or Asia and not originating in Africa.
Now, human feet is distinct among the land animals. The [modern] human foot has a long sole with five, short, forward-pointing toes—sans claws—and an identifiable hallux (or big toe). Our closest evolutionary relative—the Great Apes—have foot that more closely resemble human hands, most notably with opposable thumbs.
The new footprints were found in the western Crete region of Trachilos, and have obvious human-like features. However, the study abstract lists, “The interpretation of these footprints is potentially controversial. The print morphology suggests that the trackmaker was a basal member of the clade Hominini (human ancestral tree), but as Crete is some distance outside the known geographical range of pre-Pleistocene (2.5 million to 11,700 years ago) hominins we must also entertain the possibility that they represent a hitherto unknown late Miocene primate that convergently evolved human-like foot anatomy.”
Essentially, the conclusion from the study supports that this is most likely another human-like creature who walked the Earth—an as yet unidentified species—long before we had originally thought it was possible.
Released by the Geologist’s Association, Per Ahlberg comments about the study: “This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate. Whether the human origins research community will accept fossil footprints as conclusive evidence of the presence of hominins in the Miocene of Crete remains to be seen.”