The human-like footprints discovered in the Grecian island of Crete are about 5.7-million-years-old. The discovery poses a challenge to the current view on how humans populated the Earth.
Paw prints are easy find, but it's not as easy to define exactly which furry animal actually left them. The same cannot be said for human footprints because they are quite distinct from any other foot prints in the animal kingdom.
This very uniqueness of the human foot is why scientists are excited about the human-like footprints in Crete. The footprints do not suggest the presence of claws, have shape and form that's very similar to human feet, and show a big toe that's in line with the long axis of the foot instead of sticking out to one side.
Even more astounding is the fact that the footsteps did not have any other markings around it, suggesting that the owner of the markings was a bipedal creature capable of walking upright.
Out Of The 'Cradle Of Humanity'
The current view on how the humans ended up populating the Earth is that the very first humans (hominins) originated from Ethiopia. In fact, the earliest known fossils accepted as hominins were found in Chad, Kenya, and Ethiopia.
It is believed that from the region, and as the Earth's landscape changed, the early humans went their separate ways and slowly populated different parts of the planet until they, too, physically evolved according to their new surroundings.
Challenging The Timeline
What does this have to do with our footsteps? As it stands, the earliest footsteps accepted as hominin were found in Tanzania and are 3.66-million-years-old. Following it are homo erectus footsteps that are merely 1.5-million-years-old.
The very existence of these footsteps in Crete challenges the timeline of how the early humans populated the planet, especially since at that period of time, Crete was not yet an island but a part of mainland Greece. More astounding is that this research follows a study describing the discovery of "El Graeco" came out just a few months prior. "El Graeco" is the 7-million-year-old Greek and Bulgarian fossil of a human-like ape. It is believed that "El Graeco" is evidence of early human evolution in Europe.
Another possible explanation for the footprints is that it could be traces of a yet-to-be-discovered human-like primate species that evolved alongside the hominids. However, cases of convergent evolution often result in distinctions between the two species whereas the footprints in question merely looked like hominid footprints.
However, all of these are merely hypotheses and still require serious consideration and further research. However this discovery fits into the timeline of human evolution, there is no denying that this is an important one in the quest to understand the origins of man.
The study is published in the journal Proceedings of Geologists' Association.