[LISTEN] Little Foot fossils unveiled in SA


"It was like excavating a fluffy pastry out of concrete", Prof Clarke said.

The first fragments of bones belonging to Little Foot were found in 1994 followed by more in 1997.

Little Foot, like Lucy, belongs to the genus Australopithecus, with a difference in species.

"What Little Foot shows is that the pictures you see in books of our ancestors coming up and walking on all-fours, gradually getting more and more upright is all nonsense", Clarke told AFP.

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For years, information has trickled out on the significance of the find, but this is the first time the fossil skeleton will be unveiled in the vault of the University of the Witwatersrand Evolutionary Studies Institute. The unveiling of a near-complete fossil hominid skeleton dating back 3.67 million years will only solidify the importance of the region.

Researchers from the University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg in South Africa have revealed a discovery which they call as "by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found".

Professor Ron Clarke's assistants Stephen Motsumi and Nkwane Molefe were then sent to the Sterkfontein Caves to search for any broken bone surface which might fit with the bones he had discovered initially.

It took the researchers 20 years to excavate and reconstruct the skeleton, which was found in a cave outside of Johannesburg.

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Now Clarke and a team of global experts are conducting a full set of scientific studies on it.

"The process required extremely careful excavation in the dark environment of the cave". The scientists will likewise soon publish over two dozen scientific papers on their hefty work. "Once the upward-facing surfaces of the skeleton's bones were exposed, the breccia in which their undersides were still embedded had to be carefully undercut and removed in blocks for further cleaning in the lab at Sterkfontein", says Clarke. "And it helps us to understand our origins", Prof Clarke said.

According to the chief scientist, Robert Blumenschine from the Paleontological Scientific Trust (PAST), which is an organization that sponsored the excavation, the findings are the sources of pleasure for Africans.

Blumenschine added that the discovery indicated that Africa is more than the storehouse of the ancient fossil heritage for people the world over.

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