Oudste voetsporen van de wereld op West Kreta

During a holiday in Western Crete in 2002, palaeontologist Gerard D. Gierliński noticed some striking footprints near the village of Trachilos. He had no time to investigate, and it was not until 2010 that Gierliński returned to Crete with the intention of studying what he had found. He quickly confirmed that the footprints were hominoid, at which time an international team of scientists assembled on the island to try and date the find.

Research using geophysical and micro-palaeontological techniques dated the footprints to approximately 6.05 million years ago. That means that they are 2.5 million years older than the tracks attributed to Australopithecus afarensis (known as Lucy) found in Laetoli in Tanzania. This  makes the Trachilos footprints the oldest in the world, dating from roughly the same time as the fossils of Orrorin tugenensis found in Kenya. That specimen walked upright, although there are differences between the two in the thigh and foot bones.

The Trachilos footprints provide us with new insights into early human evolution. Professor Per Ahlberg of the University of Uppsala explains: “The earliest human foot used for walking in an upright posture had a ball, with a strong parallel large toe and the other toes progressively shorter. The foot had a shorter sole than that of Australopithecus. There was as yet no obvious arch and the heel was smaller.”

Information board about the earliest footprints in  Trachilos on Crete
The information board shows how the footprints were originally found. The letters refer to left and right prints
The footprints are near the coast. Unfortunately they are not very well preserved and are constantly covered by sand
Some tracks can still be seen. The rest have been eroded or covered with sand and gravel
Most of the prints lie under this cover and are thus partly protected – probably not the best way!
How the prints looked when they were first found by the Polish researchers
More prints, probably from animals
The coast in the immediate area is very beautiful
Information on the sign
Extra information on the panel

Text                 Harrie Wolters

Translation     Alun Harvey

Vorig artikelBrons en Bronstijd – deel 20
Volgend artikelAptera, archaeological highlight in Western Crete
Harrie Wolters is algemeen directeur van het Hunebedcentrum.


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