The Laetoli G footprints have always been a problem for evolutionists. Reported in 1979 by Dr. Mary Leakey1, these fossil footprints were made in volcanic ash, and they have always seemed to be the kind of footprints you would expect from unshod modern humans. So what’s the problem? Well, according to scientifically irresponsible dating techniques, the ash is somewhere between 3.6 and 3.8 million years old. According to evolutionary assumptions, modern humans didn’t exist back then, so obviously, the tracks couldn’t have been made by modern humans.
The only thing that would make an evolutionist think that, however, is the supposed age of the ash. Indeed, Russell Tuttle of the University of Chicago has studied the footprints in detail. In a 1990 article, he said:
In discernible features, the Laetoli G prints are indistinguishable from those of habitually barefoot Homo sapiens…If the G footprints were not known to be so old, we would readily conclude that they were made by a member of our genus, Homo.2
So even though they are “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, evolutionists say they clearly can’t have been made by modern humans, because they are simply too old.
Because of the supposed age of the prints, many evolutionists assume they were made by Australopithecus afarensis or a closely-related species, since A. afarensis is assumed to be the most “human like” animal living at the time. The problem is that even with the most modern analysis to date, this makes no sense.
In a recent PLoS ONE article3, David A. Raichlen and his colleagues show that the Laetoli footprints are exactly what you would expect for modern humans walking as modern humans walk. In their study, they built a sandy trackway and had eight subjects walk normally through it. They then had the subjects walk with a “bent-knee, bent-hip (BKBH) ape-like gait,” as would be expected for A. afarensis. They compared the subjects’ tracks to the Laetoli G footprints, and they found that the Laetoli G footprints were consistent with the footprints the subjects left while walking normally.
So the footprints are “indistinguishable” from modern human footprints, and they indicate that whatever left them walked with the same gait as modern humans. Thus, they are modern human footprints, right? Well, not according to the authors. They state:
While our results show that Laetoli hominins walked with human-like kinematics, we still cannot be sure of which hominin taxon made the footprints. Many researchers suggest that Australopithecus afarensis made the footprint trails , , , although this hypothesis is disputed by others based on differences between print morphology and fossilized foot remains , . If Au. afarensis did make the Laetoli footprints, then our results support the hypothesis that this species walked with relatively human-like hip and knee extension , , and that kinematically human-like bipedalism is compatible with adaptations for arboreality found throughout the australopith skeleton.
In the end, then, it doesn’t really matter what the data say. One must simply force them into an evolutionary framework. The data say these are modern human footprints, but because evolutionary assumptions forbid modern humans to have existed when the footprints were supposedly formed, some other explanation must be given. Therefore, we must say that even though the prints do not match what you would expect from the fossilized foot remains4 of A. afarensis, and even though A. afarensis, has hands, feet, and shoulder joints that are well adapted to arboreality (life in the trees), it must have actually walked with the gait of a modern human. Either that, or some mystical, unknown “primitive” human that existed back then just happened to walk the same way that today’s humans walk.
Wow. I am glad I am not an evolutionist. I just don’t have that kind of faith!
1. Leakey, Mary, “Footprints in the Ashes of Time,” National Geographic, 155:446-57, 1979
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2. Tuttle, Russell, “The Pitted Pattern of Laetoli Feet,” Natural History 99:60-65, 1990 (quote is on page 64).
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4. Harcourt-Smith WEH, “Did Australopithecus afarensis make the Laetoli footprint trail? New insights into an old problem,” American Journal of Physical Anthropology S40:116, 2005
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