Will the “most complete skeleton ever” transform human origins?

The public unveiling of a remarkable discovery highlights new potential in a changing science

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Video of the unveiling event, created by the University of the Witwatersrand
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MLD 1, the skull fragment from Makapansgat that Raymond Dart named “Australopithecus prometheus” in 1948. Today, most scientists think it is too incomplete to serve as the basis for describing a species.
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Setting aside modern humans and Neanderthals, which have much more substantial fossil evidence than other ancient groups, only a few partial hominin skeletons have been found. In this group, the “Little Foot” skeleton stands apart in its extraordinary completeness of evidence. Out of the skeletons shown here, only the Turkana Boy, Lucy, Sts 431 and Sts 14 skeletons were known 20 years ago.
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Anthropologists have found very little evidence of the postcranial skeleton of Homo habilis. The best possible “partial skeletons” of the species are OH 62 from Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania, and KNM-ER 3735 from Koobi Fora, Kenya. Anthropologists have used the “Lucy” skeleton (AL 288–1, left) as a crude approximation, but Little Foot will provide vastly better, and closer, comparisons for these and other fossils. Image courtesy of Lee Berger and National Geographic.
Ron Clarke and Rob Blumenschine tell the story of Little Foot and its discovery in this video from the University of the Witwatersrand (YouTube)

Written by

Paleoanthropologist. I study human evolution and work to understand the fossil and genetic evidence of our hominin ancestors.

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