Published: Thu, December 07, 2017
Science | By Hubert Green

Researchers unveil 3.6 million-year-old rare skeleton of human ancestor

Researchers unveil 3.6 million-year-old rare skeleton of human ancestor

In a statement released to the media it was made known that after 20 years of painstaking excavation and preparation, Clarke has introduced the most complete Australopithecus fossil ever found to the world.

"This is one of the most remarkable fossil discoveries made in the history of human origins research and it is a privilege to unveil a finding of this importance today", said Ron Clarke, the Wits University academic who discovered Little Foot.

The skeleton is nicknamed as "Little Foot" and was found in the Sterkfontein Caves, situated almost 25 miles northwest of Johannesburg, where little bones were found when miners blasted the rock.

One of the oldest and most complete skeletons of humankind's ancestors has been unveiled in South Africa.

The University of the Witwatersrand displayed the virtually complete Australopithecus fossil on Wednesday.

"What Little Foot shows is that the pictures you see in books of our ancestors coming up and walking on all-fours, gradually getting more and more upright is all nonsense", Clarke told AFP.

Although the honor of the oldest hominid skeleton ever found goes to a hominin named Ardi, which lived in Ethiopia 4.4 million years ago, the discovery of Little Foot is important because its skeleton is more whole than Ardi's.

Professor Ron Clarke's assistants Stephen Motsumi and Nkwane Molefe were then sent to the Sterkfontein Caves to search for any broken bone surface which might fit with the bones he had discovered initially.

Prof Clarke at the excavation site.

Researchers say it has taken them 20 years to excavate, clean, reconstruct and analyse the delicate skeleton. The scientists will likewise soon publish over two dozen scientific papers on their hefty work. Once the upward-facing surfaces of the skeleton's bones were exposed, the breccia in which the undersides were still embedded had to be carefully undercut and removed in blocks for further cleaning in the lab...

South African researchers on Wednesday unveiled the nearly complete skeleton of the famous Australopithecus Little Foot in Johannesburg.

More information came to light after Clarke discovered more bones in 1997 while going through a cupboard at the University of the Witwatersrand medical school.

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