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Walking tall


During their field season in June-July 2009, Richmond and colleagues from Kenya, South Africa, UK, and the US discovered new, particularly well-preserved footprints of our early ancestors in 1.5 million year-old sediments in northwestern Kenya. These finds add important new evidence about the anatomy and function of the foot in our early human ancestors and relatives, and build on their work published on the cover of Science (2009, Vol. 323:1197-1201) and featured as the cover article along with a Perspective in Science (2009, Vol. 323: 1174-1175). They used state-of-the-art laser scanning technology to digitally record the prints, and applied advanced 3D shape analysis (geometric morphometrics) to show that these footprints represent the oldest definitive evidence of an essentially modern style of walking in early human ancestors, most likely early Homo erectus. The new finds are reported in Richmond et al, Am. J. Phys. Anthropol. S50: 197. This study combined approaches from biomechanics, morphometrics, geology, and paleontology.

Address Goals

The identification of these footprints was a genuinely new discovery, and the wide publicity it received in the traditional media (e.g., NPR) meant that it reached a wide national and international audience.