’Little Foot’ is 3.67 million years old [fr]

Scientists from French, South African, Canadian and American research institutes were able to determine that the fossil of Little Foot, which was discovered in South Africa’s Sterkfontein Caves, is around 3.67 million years old.

Since its discovery in 1994 by Ronald J. Clarke, paleoanthropologist at the University of Witwatersrand, attempts to date Little Foot have yielded highly uncertain results, ranging from 2.2 million years to over 4 million years old.

In 2007, the South African University called upon a French expert, the geomorphologist Laurent Bruxelles, for assistance to inquire on the chronology of the formation of the layers of rock that held the fossils. At the beginning of 2014, together with Ron Clarke, Bruxelles found the 1.5 and 2.2 million years flowstones did not reflect Little Foot’s age, because they did not form at the same time. After analyzing the sediments that contain the hominid, he determines that Little Foot must be at least 3 million years old.

During the second semester 2014, the analysis of the fossils based on an innovative dating technique confirm the French expert prediction: Little Foot is around 3.67 million years old (± 0,16 million years). In the new analysis, the research team pinpointed the fossil’s age by measuring levels of aluminum and beryllium isotopes in quartz in the same rock layer as the skeleton.

The scientific paper, published on the 1st of April in the journal Nature, offers a great exposure to French teams involved in the project, knowing the l’Inrap – the biggest French research institute in archeology, TRACES – one of the largest European research centres in archeology the CNRS and the Université Toulouse Jean-Jaurès.

Further information:
Paper in Nature

Little Foot in the Sterkfontein cave - Photo copyright : Laurent Bruxelles
Little Foot skull - Photo copyright : Jason Heaton
Little Foot skull in daylight
Stephen Motsumi, Laurent Bruxelles and Ron Clarke. Photo copyright: F.Duranthon

publie le 22/08/2017

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