Researchers in South Africa have uncovered what they call “largely the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million decades ever discovered.”
The University of the Witwatersrand exhibited the virtually complete Australopithecus fossil on Wednesday.
The skeleton dates back 3.6 million years. Its discovery is expected to help researchers better understand the individual ancestor’s look and behavior.
The researchers say it has taken 20 years to excavate, clean, rebuild and analyze the delicate skeleton.
The skeleton, dubbed Little Foot, was found in the Sterkfontein caves, about 25 miles northwest of Johannesburg when small foot bones have been found in stone blasted by miners.
Professor Ron Clarke and his supporters found the fossils and spent years to excavate, clean, analyze and reconstruct the skeleton.
The discovery is a source of pride for Africans, stated Robert Blumenschine, chief scientist with the firm that financed the excavation, the Paleontological Scientific Trust (PAST).
“Not only is Africa the storehouse of the ancient fossil Heritage for people the world over, it was also the wellspring of what that makes us human, such as our technological prowess, our artistic ability and our ultimate intellect,” explained Blumenschine.
Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Witswatersrand, hailed the assembly of the full skeleton.
“This is a landmark accomplishment for the global scientific community and South Africa’s heritage,” said Habib. “It is through important discoveries likLittle Small Foot that we get a glimpse into our past that helps us to better comprehend our common humanity.”