Scientists have finally unveiled the oldest hominid skeleton ever found in South Africa, following more than twenty years of excavating and restoring.
South Africa's status as a major cradle in the African nursery of humankind has been reinforced with today's unveiling of "Little Foot", the country's oldest, virtually complete fossil human ancestor.
The skeleton has been nicknamed Little Foot, Newsweek reports. The almost complete skeleton is expected to help paleontologists know more about the appearance and movement of Australopithecus, the early human ancestors. She's a female skeleton, as determined by her pelvic structure, face and teeth.
Importantly, her presence suggests that hominins were spread out farther across Africa than previously thought, and she's the first skeleton that allows a comparison between arm length and leg length in a single individual.
After lying undiscovered for more than 3,6 million years deep within the Sterkfontein Caves, Clarke found several foot bones and lower leg bone fragments in 1994 and 1997 among other fossils that had been removed from rock blasted from the cave years earlier by lime miners.
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The specialised process of excavation then began in earnest right up until 2012, when the last visible elements were removed from the cave in blocks of breccia, a concrete-like rock.
"My assistants and I have worked painstakingly ever since, cleaning the bones from the breccia blocks and reconstructing the full skeleton", said Clarke.
Radio 702's Azania Mosaka spoke to Professor Robert Blumenschine, the chief scientist at the Palaeontological Scientific Trust, about Little Foot.
Blumenschine added that the discovery indicated that Africa is more than the storehouse of the ancient fossil heritage for people the world over.
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