Debate on dating ‘Little Foot’ continues

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Wits University Palaeontologist, Professor Francis Thackeray says he stands by the original findings regarding dating Australopithecus fossil, Little Foot.

Debate on dating 'Little Foot' continues
Little
foot was an Australopithecus individual, who lived more than two
million years ago

 in Southern Africa [Credit: National Geographic]

This comes after new findings by University of Johannesburg’s Prof Jan Kramers and Australia’s James Cook University’s Prof Paul Dirks revealed that the fossil was much younger than originally thought.

Little foot was an Australopithecus individual, who lived more than two million years ago in Southern Africa. Australopithecus is an extinct group of the human species.

The fossil is one of a few complete skeletons that has been found of this general group of species.

The age of “Little Foot” has been hotly debated ever since its discovery at the Sterkfontein Caves at the Cradle of Humankind world heritage area.

Little Foot was named for the four ankle bones which were found in 1980. The remainder of the skeleton was uncovered from 1997 onwards.

Thackeray says the original date of 3,7 million was based on a sample of nine rocks.

“If you look at the results published by Darryl Granger and the team that got the date 3.7 million, that is very strong data, obviously what they had to do was to recognise certain samples that were not reliable.”

“So there were samples that they left out and by doing so they got on an extraordinary pattern and very reliable set of results along what they called isochron. The nine samples that they analysed all related to a date of 3.7 million”

Kramers says their calculations revealed that the human ancestor thought to be 3.7 million years old is actually 2.8 million years old. He says his calculations means Little Foot fits the time frame which Mrs Ples and the Taung Child were born.

“We didn’t do any new analysis, we just did mathematics with the existing data that had been published a few years ago, so we looked at it from a different perspective; the original authors concentrated on how long this material has been underground and our approach is how could it have been in this particular pile of sediments where the fossil is.”

“We applied different mathematics of that data and we got this maximum age of 2.8 years, which is much younger than the age that has been publicised which is 3,7 million years.”

Author: Lebo Tshangela | Source: SABC [May 03, 2017]

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