Scientists have finally unveiled the oldest hominid skeleton ever found in South Africa, following more than twenty years of excavating and restoring. The scientists will likewise soon publish over two dozen scientific papers on their hefty work.
Ron Clarke, the scientist who originally discovered the bones in the 1990s, said,
This is one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries made in the history of human origins research and it is a privilege to unveil a finding of this importance.
The skeleton has been nicknamed Little Foot, Newsweek reports.
The exact age of the skeleton remains a mystery, but it is believed to be around 3.67 million years old. A report by the BBC states that this would make Little Foot half a million years older than Lucy, the other famous ancient skeleton.
Little Foot, like Lucy, belongs to the genus Australopithecus, with a difference in species. The scientists referred to Little Foot as belonging to the Australopithecus prometheus species. This was Clarke’s original classification, but many others believe that the skeleton actually belongs to Australopithecus africanus.
This skeleton comes from South Africa, while Lucy, which belongs to Australopithecus afarensis, is established to be from East Africa.
Little Foot appears to be a young girl who fell down a shaft and into the limestone Sterkfontein caves, located near Johannesburg. Nearby is the Cradle of Humankind, widely believed to be the starting point for human evolution, with varying opinions on the matter.
According to National Geographic, a discovery of a large number of fossils at Malapa, South Africa in 2008 has helped the Cradle of Humankind theory along, though other scientists argue that East Africa might be a more likely origin point.
Clarke said, “It might be small, but it might be very important. Because that’s how it started, with one little bone. And it helps us to understand our origins.”