little foot via wits university

Australopithecus Prometheus: Why This Ancient Skeleton Is STILL Making Scientists Question Human Origins

A new scientific study suggests scientists may just have come across a new species of ancient humans.

Meet ‘Little Foot,’ an ancient hominin believed to have lived on Earth around 3.67 MILLION years ago.

little foot via wits university

Little Foot via Wits University

Scientists say that this species is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and maybe a completely new human species.

The skeleton’s analysis resulted in four different scientific papers which are currently being peer-reviewed. They claim that the skeleton of an elderly female with a crippled left arm does not belong to any known category of early humans.

The skeleton is odd for a number of reasons.

Scientists have found that the woman had legs longer than her arms, a trait commonly associated with the evolution of modern humans, as it favors bipedalism – the ability to walk on two legs.

Further studies determined that the woman was on a vegetarian diet, and stood a little over 1.30 meters, or 4.2 feet tall.

The ‘new’ species has been dubbed Australopithecus prometheus.

The skeletal remains were discovered in the Sterkfontein caves near Johannesburg in 1994.

Shortly after, scientists categorized the skeleton as being a member of the Australopithecus, a group of human ancestors to which the famous fossil ‘Lucy’ belongs.

The debate on what species Little Foot belonged to has been going on for more than two decades.

Dr. Ronald Clarke of the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg is one of the many scientists who argue that Little Foot does not fit into the Australopithecus group of hominins.

Dr. Clarke claims that Little Foot is an entirely new human species: Australopithecus prometheus.

“I’ve spent 20 years getting this skeleton, finding it in the rock in the deep darkness of the cave, locating every bone, and then cleaning it sufficiently so we could identify them in the cave, undercutting them, bringing them out in blocks, cleaning them, reconstructing them,” explained Dr. Clarke in an interview with New Scientist.

See Professor Ron Clarke from the Evolutionary Studies Institute at Wits University discuss Little Foot below:

Little Foot, formerly known as StW573 had bones much smaller compared to larger hominins that are known to have existed at the same time.

The new studies discovered that the elderly woman had a severe injury: Little Foot’s left forearm created ‘bilateral asymmetry,’ causing her left limb to become deformed with respect to her height. It is believed that Little Foot fell onto an outstretched arm as a child, and the resulting injury most likely troubled her during her entire life.

More about Little Foot and how they dated the skeleton to 3.67 million-years-old below:

The studies detailing the new discoveries are available at the following links: 10.1101/481556; 10.1101/483495; 10.1101/482711; 10.1101/486076