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Neanderthal Gigolos

from New Scientist

Oldest early human footprints suggest males had several ‘wives’

By Colin Barras

Footprints clearly imprinted in ancient rockRaffaello Pellizzon

Three has become five. Laetoli in northern Tanzania is the site of iconic ancient footprints, capturing the moment – 3.66 million years ago – when three members of Lucy’s species (Australopithecus afarensis) strode out across the landscape.

Now something quite unexpected has come to light: the footprints of two other individuals.

“Our discovery left us without words,” says Marco Cherin at the University of Perugia, Italy.

The find looks set to transform our understanding of the Laetoli site and the social dynamics of australopiths, as well as their style of walking.

The original Laetoli footprints were discovered in 1976. Nothing quite like them had ever been found before. They remain by far the oldest hominin footprints we know, fortuitously preserved because a group of australopiths walked across damp volcanic ash during the brief window of time before it turned from soft powder into hard rock.

“Geologists say this hardening process must have occurred in just a few hours,” says Cherin.

[ click to continue reading at New Scientist ]

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Editor

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