Fossil footprints on Crete may be the oldest in the world

The study of the age of Crete’s footprints is based on three methods. First, the geological history of the site was considered, says Professor Madeleine Boehme, a geologist and paleontologist at the University of Tübingen and the Senckenberg Center for Human Evolution. In the next step, we examined the bio-classification based on microfossils of plankton and algae. The evolution of these organisms in the Mediterranean is well known, and thus can serve fossils until now. The third method is based on changes in the Earth’s magnetism over time, traces of which can be found in rocks. A combination of these three methods allows us to date the footprints at 6.05 million years.

Trachilos imprints caused a lot of discussion. Not everyone is convinced that these are early humans, or that the fossils point in the direction of the erect primates, which Bohm is convinced of. The morphology of the footprints shows that it was a creature that left upright. Our research places the tracks in the same time period as Orrorin tugenensis, Also one of the first hominins who walked upright.

It is known that footprints are difficult to explain without other fossil finds. The same goes for this from Trachilos. The new historiography also fuels another debate about whether the first humans came from Africa as previously thought. “There is a hypothesis on the table that typical African animal species such as lions, but also early hominins, originally evolved in Eurasia and later migrated to Africa,” Boone says.

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