Scientists have made a recent discovery on the Mediterranean island of Crete – one they claim may be more than 5.7 million years old. Fossils with hominin-like characteristics were found in Trachilos, western Crete. The fossils detail bipedal footprints that indicate the creature who made them had a prominent ball of the foot, a large forward-facing big toe and no claws.
The discovery was published in the journal Proceedings of the Geologists’ Association. In the article, researchers argue that the footprints indicate that bipedal apes with hominin features were present in Europe around 5.7 million years ago. Before this discovery, researchers claimed that the oldest hominin known from a nearly complete fossil was 4.4 million years ago. Referred to as Ardipithecus ramidus, scientists say the fossil shows that the hominin was walking on ape-like feet in Ethiopia.
Per Erik Ahlberg, co-author of the article, said in a statement, “This discovery challenges the established narrative of early human evolution head-on and is likely to generate a lot of debate. Whether the human origins research community will accept fossil footprints as conclusive evidence of the presence of hominins in the Miocene of Crete remains to be seen.”
Earlier this year, researchers who follow the theory of evolution announced that their ancestors may have split from chimpanzees in the grasslands in Europe, instead of from the savannas in Africa. They based their findings off of two fossil jaw bones, which they claim date back 7.2 million years. The jaw bones indicated teeth similar to humans, instead of chimpanzees.