Following an epic 20-year-long excavation in South Africa, researchers have finally recovered and cleaned the nearly complete skeleton of an ancient human relative: an approximately 3.67-million-year-old hominin nicknamed Little Foot.
Little Foot is likely a previously unknown species, the researchers said. In four newly posted studies — all available on bioRxiv, meaning they are not yet published in a peer-reviewed journal — the researchers delved into Little Foot’s anatomy. Their findings reveal that Little Foot likely walked upright on two feet and probably had a nearly lifelong injury on her left arm.
The successful two-decade-long excavation of Little Foot was “almost a miracle,” study researcher Robin Crompton, a musculoskeletal biologist at the University of Liverpool, in the United Kingdom, told Nature, because the bones themselves were softer than the rock surrounding them in the Sterkfontein caves, about 25 miles (40 kilometers) northwest of Johannesburg.