“These rarest of impressions yielded information about soft tissue form and structure not normally accessible in fossilized bones. The Ileret footprints constitute the oldest evidence of an essentially modern human-like foot anatomy,” according to a team of anthropologists who detailed the discovery in the February 27 issue of the journal Science.
According to the authors of the journal article, there were three footprint trails in the upper sediment layer. Five meters deeper, another sediment surface preserved one trail of two prints and a single, smaller print, likely from a child.
“In these specimens, the big toe is parallel to the other toes, unlike that of apes where it is separated in a grasping configuration useful in the trees. The footprints show a pronounced human-like arch and short toes, typically associated with an upright bipedal stance,” the scientists said. The size, spacing and depth of the impressions were the basis of estimates of weight, stride and gait, all found to be within the range of modern humans.
The size and other characteristics of the prints led the authors to conclude the prints belonged to the hominid Homo ergaster, or early Homo erectus. This is the first hominid to have had the same body proportions with longer legs and shorter arms called as modern Homo sapiens.