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Researchers Find 6 Million-Year-Old Ancient Human Footprints in Europe

Photograph of two of the oldest footprints from a previous research. Credit: Ahlberg et al 2017

The oldest footprints predate the oldest known example of primitive people by more than 2.5 million years.

An international team of scientists has re-analyzed fossil footprints that were left by a primitive man on the territory of Greece. Modern dating methods have made it possible to establish their exact age, which was 6.05 million years.

Oldest footprints in the world? Here’s everything you need to know


The ancient footprints were found back in 2002 on the island of Crete near the Greek village of Trachilos. Even then, the researchers suggested that the discovered traces are the oldest of their kind and belong to one of the distant ancestors of modern man.

Recent studies

New analysis has shown that these footprints are about 350,000 years older than previously thought. In addition, modern data processing methods have confirmed the earlier hypothesis that the tracks are, in fact, human.

51 of the oldest footprints

By the way, over the past years, 51 ancient footprints have been discovered near the village of Trachilos on the western outskirts of Crete. They have been preserved in sedimentary rock on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. The mystery for scientists so far remains what the representative of which species of hominids left these prints in the coastal zone.

Human ancestor

A new study confirmed that this was a human ancestor, already predominantly walking on two legs. The prints clearly indicate that he had a big toe on his feet and that the foot itself had a shape inherent in the human race. In particular, a spherical protrusion in the front part was found on her sole – an element characteristic only of humans, it is not found in monkeys.


Clarification of the age of the tracks did not reveal, but only thickened the veil of secrecy. The generally accepted theory says that the ancestors of people appeared in Africa and from there they spread in several waves of migration, first across Europe, and then across Asia.

2.5 million years older than “Lucy”

At the same time, Australopithecus afarensis is considered the oldest species of primitive people, the remains of which were found in the town of Laetoli in Tanzania. It is to this species that the most famous officially recognized human ancestor belongs – “Lucy”. But the fact is that the traces found in Crete were left almost 2.5 million years before the birth of “Lucy”.

Upright primates

By the way, science knows the species of upright primates Orrorin tugenensis. Their fossilized remains were found earlier in Kenya. This species lived from 6.1 to 5.8 million years ago. Chronologically, it is comparable to the age of the footprints from Crete, but the scientists did not find evidence that the representatives of this particular species left footprints in the sand.

Much more primitive hominid species

They suggest that the oldest footprints may have belonged to a much more primitive hominid species than Australopithecus afarensis. Also, the researchers note that Crete was not yet an island six million years ago. Then it was part of the mainland, which today is Greece.

Unusual location

This means that the first hominids could live not only in Africa but also in Southeast Europe. In addition, scientists write that traces could have been left at a time when the current Mediterranean Sea receded or dried up.

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Chadwick, J. (2021, October 11). Experts identify oldest footprints of pre-humans in crete. Daily Mail Online.
Kirscher, U., El Atfy, H., Gärtner, A., Dallanave, E., Munz, P., Niedźwiedzki, G., Athanassiou, A., Fassoulas, C., Linnemann, U., Hofmann, M., Bennett, M., Ahlberg, P. E., & Böhme, M. (2021, October 11). Age constraints for the Trachilos footprints from Crete. Nature News. (2021, October 11). Oldest footprints of pre-humans identified in crete.