Museum

TUKUL 3: Palaeoanthropology

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Footprints

Footprints of Australopithecus afarensis


Systematic researches carried out at Laetoli (Tanzania), 50 km South from Olduvai Gorge, by Mary D. Leakey between 1974 and 1979 brought to light important paleontological and palaeoanthropological material dated to 3.76-3.46 Myr.

One of the more well-known discoveries from this site are the Laetoli footprints. An accurate inspection of the area brought to the discovery of thousands of fossilized tracks in a tuff level, among which those of elephants, giraffes, rhinoceros and of several other species.
The excavations, carried out between 1978 and 1979, brought to the discovery of three series of hominids footprints on an extension of around 27 m.

The three series contained a total of 54 footprints, that allowed to recognize some anatomical characteristics as the heel, the arcade of the plant and the big toe. There have been many interpretations of the footprints, with different numbers and sex of individuals, and different ideas as to the form of locomation used to create them.
Finally, most people have come to accept the idea that the footprints, dated to 3.56 Myr, were left by three individuals of Australopithecus afarensis, characterized by a bipedal locomotion close to the human one.


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