Monday, March 2, 2009

Essay Idea: 1.5 Million-Year-Old Human Footprints Found

The big news last week was the announcement of the second-oldest "human footprints" dating to 1.5 million years ago. Well, of course, the first thought in many Christians' mind is, "Huh?" Once again, it's important to differentiate between what we call humans (homo sapiens sapiens) and what anthropologists call "human" (pretty much any primate that walks upright).

The new footprints, described in last Thursday's Science, apparently belong to Homo erectus. Maker of the first stone tools, H. erectus was also the first hominid to leave Africa, migrating to Asia about two million years ago.

"Early Hominin Foot Morphology Based on 1.5-Million-Year-Old Footprints from Ileret, Kenya." By Matthew R. Bennett, John W.K. Harris, Brian G. Richmond, David R. Braun, Emma Mbua, Purity Kiura, Daniel Olago, Mzalendo Kibunjia, Christine Omuombo, Anna K. Behrensmeyer, David Huddart, Silvia Gonzalez. Science, Vol. 323 Iss. 5918, Feb. 26, 2009.

"Stepping Out." By Robin Huw Crompton and Todd C. Pataky. Science, Vol. 323 Iss. 5918, Feb. 26, 2009.

There is a great lay-person's summary of the discovery at

"Walk Like Us: 1.5 Million-Year-Old Footprints Look Modern"

I would suggest reading through the news article first, and then listen to Dr. Fuz Rana's commentary on the discovery on RTB's Science News Flash podcast.

"The Shoe Fits! 1.5 Million-Year-Old Human Footprints Found"

Finally, it's worth considering having students write a short essay responding to this discovery, weighing the evidence on both sides.

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