googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: The Laetoli Footprints: Surprisingly human tracks for an ape!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

The Laetoli Footprints: Surprisingly human tracks for an ape!

The most discussed, non-Homo ancestor of modern humans presented by evolutionists is certainly Australopithecus afarensis, represented by the famous, partial skeleton dubbed, “Lucy.” Models of her skeleton are a staple in probably every natural history museum in the world. You've probably seen one first hand. If you have seen one, you may have noticed that it is only about 40% complete. There are no feet and the only bone found of the hands is a single bone of one finger.

Complete skeletons of large animals are extremely rare in the fossil record. That's just the way it is. But this was a supposed human ancestor and the subject of much interest. Scientists wanted to reconstruct what the creature might have looked like but how can they credibly do that without having its hands or feet? I present to you, The Laetoli Footprints!

The Laetoli Footprints are human footprints found in volcanic ash dated by evolutionists to about the same time as Lucy (3myo). Per Wikipedia, Although it is highly debated, it is believed the three individuals who made these footprints belonged to the species Australopithecus afarensis.” “Highly debated,” huh? I'm not too sure about that one unless they mean, “Highly contested by creationists.” It is precisely because of these footprints that every, secular reconstruction of Australopithecus I've ever seen sports human hands and feet. In fact, the Wiki article goes on to discuss the prints as though they certainly belong to A. afarensis.

Human hands are somewhat similar to ape hands. However, human footprints are not like the footprint of any creature. The Laetoli Footprints prints are very human-like. Per the same Wiki article, The footprints themselves were an unlikely discovery because they are almost indistinguishable from modern human footprints, even being almost 4 million years old. It is noted that the toe pattern is much the same as the human foot, which is much different than the feet of chimpanzees and other non bipedal beings. The footprint impression has been interpreted as the same as the modern human stride, with the heel striking first and then a weight transfer to the ball of the foot before pushing off the toes.”

Pardon me while I have a chuckle. If I found footprints that are indistinguishable from human footprints, both in anatomy and stride, my first thought would be that they belonged to humans! It is my opinion that the only reason these have been assigned to A. afarensis is because evolutionary theory proposes that modern humans had not yet evolved at this time and the only other known candidate that might make such a print is A. afarensis. This is clearly a case of shaping the facts to fit the theory rather than the theory to the facts.

Do you think I'm wrong? Then let me point out another quote from the article and see what you think:

Other prints show the presence of twenty different animal species besides A. afarensis, among them hyenas, wild cats (Machairodus), baboons, wild boars, giraffes, gazelles, rhinos, several kinds of antelope, Hipparion, buffaloes, elephant relatives (of the extinct Deinotherium genus), hares and birds.

Look at this artistic rendering of what the scene at Laetoli might have looked like (supposedly) 3 million years ago.  See the ostrich, elephants, giraffes, and guineas?  Do you have any trouble identifying what any of them are?  

Now I've been outdoors enough to know that animal tracks are very distinct. I've never seen a giraffe's tracks (around here I see things like deer, rabbit, and raccoon) but if these scientists have identified a track as a giraffe's, they're probably right. It's funny, though, when I imagine the conversations these scientists were having as they uncovered different tracks:

Oh, look – rhino tracks. They belong to a rhino.
Oh, look – hyena tracks. They belong to a hyena.
Oh, look – baboon tracks. They belong to a baboon.
Oh, look – human tracks. They belong to Australopithecus afarensis.

When you find a human footprint, the most obvious interpretation is that it belongs to a human. I mean, when they see the rhino track they don't question it belongs to a rhino. I never read headlines that say, “unknown species made footprints indistinguishable from a modern rhino's.” The Laetoli tracks are clear evidence that modern humans were contemporary with A. afarensis. Secular scientists, though, close their eyes to that possibility because of their theory. They aren't going where the evidence leads. Their theory is leading them around by the nose.

Oh, by the way, wouldn't this be another out of place fossil? Modern human footprints found in volcanic ash dated at 3 million years old? If nothing else, this is further evidence that Dawkins lied when he said a single, out of date order fossil would disprove his theory.

Now let's back up for a minute. Remember that scientists did not have Lucy's hands or feet. The reconstructions of Lucy, which always depict A. afarensis as having human (albeit hairy) hands and feet, are based solely on the human footprint found at Laetoli. The problem is that, since Lucy, we've found more A. afarensis skeletons which are more complete and some even include bones from the feet! One example is “Little Foot,” discovered about 20 years ago. I've included an artistic reconstruction of Little Foot's foot published on Wiki. Even a layperson like me can see that that foot could not have made the Laetoli footprints. It's very apelike. So the next time you're at a museum and see an A. afarensis exhibited with human hands and feet, you'll know they're lying to you.

Let me conclude on this point: A. afarensis did not make the footprint in the volcanic ash in Laetoli. So what did? I suggest the answer is obvious. Human footprints are made by humans! A. afarensis is merely another species of ape. They may be extinct now, but they lived at the same time as modern humans. They are not the ancestors of modern humans.


Steven J. said...

Lucy (officially AL288-1, its museum catalog number) is not the only specimen of Australopithecus afarensis; there are some two dozen specimens, including some which include or comprise foot bones. Admittedly, these do not constitute complete feet, but they are enough to indicate that afarensis feet, or at least some of them (the species was variable) were arched like modern human feet.

Note that "almost indistinguishable" is not the same as "indistinguishable." According to the eFossil page maintained by the anthropology department of the University of Texas (Austin), the footprints at Laetoli indicate that the walker had "relatively short toes, and an intermediately adducted hallux". I'm not sure what those toes were short, relative to (modern humans or modern chimps?), but an "intermediately adducted hallux" is a big toe that is not quite as parallel to the other toes as a modern human big toe is -- it is intermediate between the chimpanzee and human condition, even if closer to the latter.

There is disagreement as to how many different species of Australopithecus are represented by known fossil specimens. I've seen names for at least half a dozen species, but the genus is probably over-split. On the other hand, there might be species of Australopithecus still unknown from fossils -- and the Laetoli footprints might belong to such a species (it's hard to find information on the feet of A. africanus, but they seem to be less human-like than those of A. afarensis, and hence less likely to leave footprints like those at Laetoli). "Little foot" is usually considered to be A. africanus rather than A. afarensis.

Back in 2008, an article (Liow, Lee Hsiang;, Fortelius, Mikael; Bingham, Ella; Lintulaakso, Kari; Mannila, Heikki; Flynn, Larry; and Stenseth, Nils Chr. “Higher origination and extinction rates in larger mammals.” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. April 22, 2008, vol. 105, no. 16, 6097-6102) found that the longest-lived mammal species lasted some 16 million years, while the shortest-lived lived ca. one million. While the point of the article was that larger species went extinct faster (on average) than smaller ones, there's nothing very astonishing that three million years ago, most African species were the same as modern ones. But this does not seem to be true of hominin species, and there is no particular reason to expect it ought to be true.

Steven J. said...

Some years ago, on the Talk.Origins newsgroup, a creationist poster was perplexed that, aside from merely not believing them, no one in the "evolutionist" contingent thought that reports of living, non-bird dinosaurs in Africa posed any problem for evolutionary theory. After all, he'd read that finding humans coexisting with dinosaurs would falsify evolution, so obviously, if non-bird dinosaurs were still around ....

It was pointed out to him (to how much effect I cannot say) that while a group can't exist before it evolves (so humans shouldn't be around before the earliest monkeys or apes), there's no fixed limit to how long a species (still less a genus, family, or order) can persist after it evolves. Non-bird dinosaurs are thought to be extinct because there's no sign of them after the K-Pg boundary, not because evolutionary theory says they "ought" to be extinct. If a sauropod turns up in the Congo, well, that's weird, but not a problem for evolution.

More generally, it is not enough to pluck out some sentence about "out of place" fossils falsifying evolution; you need to understand why they would falsify evolution -- or, conversely, why something that "sounds" as though it fits those conditions would not, in fact, serve as a falsification. The Laetoli footprints are younger than the estimated split between human and chimpanzee lineages. They are younger than the apparently erect-walking Ardipithecus ramidus, the earliest-known fossil specimen thought to be closer to humans than to chimps. They're older than the oldest known fossils assigned to genus Homo, but then, presumably all fossils are younger than the species they're fossils of, since most individuals don't leave fossils. Even if they were in fact identical to modern human footprints (and again, no expert seems to think they are), they're probably not out of place enough.

RKBentley said...

Steven J,

I know the difference between “almost indistinguishable” and “indistinguishable” but I might ask the same of you. I posted the Wiki pic showing the reconstruction of Little Foot's foot. Is it your opinion that it is “almost indistinguishable” from a modern human's footprint? The Wiki article I cited also noted the “toe pattern” of the footprints as being much more like a human's than a chimp's but Little Foot's toes are obviously more similar to a chimp's.

I've said on my blog before that a dino found alive today isn't really evidence against evolution. However, human footprints found contemporary with, say, a dinosaur's would be evidence against the theory. These modern footprints, dated to the same age as Lucy, are evidence that modern humans predated their supposed ancestor. Can you see how that's a problem for your theory?

Thanks for your comments. God bless!!


Anonymous said...

I believe that Creationism is true and that I can disprove any evidence about evoloution. Also, footprints can't prove that the thing that made the footprints were some kind of monkey guy. Also, I can disprove lucy. Just saying, the top part of the skeleton and the leg bone was found 1.5 miles away and the leg bone was 200ft deeper than the rest of the regular chimpanzee bones.

RKBentley said...

Thanks for visiting and for your comments.

We need to be careful about using terms like, “disprove any evidence” or “disprove Lucy.” The evidence is what it is and our theories are attempts to explain why the evidence is that way – not that there is no evidence. Creationists are often accused of ignoring scientific evidence and if we seem to be attacking the evidence rather than their theory, we play into their stereotypes.

Secondly, the Laetoli Footprints weren't made by some “monkey guy.” They are the footprints of people who were fully human. The problem for evolutionists is that these footprints are found in the same rock layers as the very ape-like, supposed human ancestor, Lucy. It's very bad for the theory of evolution when we find evidence of descendants living next to their supposed ancestors!

Thanks again. Please keep visiting and commenting. God bless!!


Alissa Peters said...


Firstly, let me say that your thought-out argument was refreshing. Although some of your facts were wrong, I would put this mostly down to being an ordinary person, not trained in the field of archaeology or of science. I really did enjoy reading an argument which had more substance to it than "you're all just wrong so there."

To continue on from your conversation with Stephen J, the primary reason that "Little Foot's" foot reconstruction is not "almost indistinguishable" from a modern human foot, yet that it is theorised that the footprints found belong to A. afarensis, is that "Little Foot" was not a member of the genus A. afarensis. Although there is dispute over his classification (which mostly arises from scholars' debate over the over-splitting of the Australopithecus genus), some suggestions include A. africanus and A. promethius. However, pretty much all scientists and archaeologists agree that "Little Foot" was not a member of A. afarensis.

Basically, what this means to the lay-person is that the genus that "Little Foot" belonged to was effectively a great-aunt or distant cousin of our species. It is thus unlikely that "Little Foot", or any individuals of his genus were the ones who left the footprints, I will certainly agree with you on that.

One of the parts of the human family-tree (so to speak) that most confuses people is that there does not have to be just one "species"(genus) of human living on the Earth at any one time, and that they evolved from one to the next in a linear fashion. They don't teach this very well in schools, which is the only education on the subject that most people have. On top of that, the theories that we have as archaeologists are changing all the time as we discover more evidence. Archaeology is a hard field because it it a lot like having the pieces of a giant jigsaw puzzle scattered all around - you will find some and put them back together, but inevitably some of the pieces will be lost for good - meaning we simply have to try to reconstruct the picture as best we can, guessing at what the missing pieces would have held.

Alissa Peters said...

Alas, I digress. The point I was getting at was that many different types of hominins could easily have existed in parallel with one another, with only the most successful going on to further develop. In fact, there are plenty of cases of hominin genus' having evolved into things that weren't us, sometimes multiple times, before eventually dying out.

You can think of this like your great-grandparents's children. This would be your grandparent and their siblings (let's call your grandparent John, and his sister Susan). John goes on and has one child with his wife - this child is your father, who in turn, gets married, and has you. Meanwhile, Susan gets married and has two children. Although they have her husband's last name, they are still your father's cousins, no? And it is easy to see how your father and your father's cousins are probably similar in age, and so lived at the same time.
Now, if we say that neither of Susan's children (your father's cousins) have any children of their own, then the remaining family of your generation would be only yourself and any siblings that you might have. As your family ages, they die off, eventually leaving only you and your siblings.
To further extend the metaphor, this can happen with each successive generation. Let's say you have one sibling whose name is Bob. If you have one child, and Bob has none, then when you and Bob both die, only your child will be left.
This is basically what happened to the human race, with Homo Sapiens and Homo Neanderthalensis being the equivalent of yourself and Bob - The last two left of the family line. Eventually, Bob (Neanderthals) died off, leaving only your "family" line left. I won't get into how it has been proven that Homo Sapiens and Neanderthals interbred, though, since that makes this whole metaphor a bit creepy >_>

Since differing hominins almost certainly did live at the same time, it is not at all unlikely that although "Little Foot" and "Lucy" are both very old, they were different kinds of hominin.
The people who wold eventually evolve into the genus Homo, and then into Homo Sapiens, were living among other hominins which did not.

I also point out that the researchers recognised some prints which were reported as "elephant family", but that they were not the prints of elephants as we know them today. I would ask you how different this case is from the footprints of people who were "hominin family" but not hominids, nor homo sapiens?

Alissa Peters said...


Did you know that those of us living today are actually the genus "Homo Sapien Sapiens"? This is because whilst Homo Sapiens existed, they were not exactly like us today. In the archaeological world, we refer to them as "archaic humans". This helps us to contrast them with what we call "anatomically modern humans" (Homo Sapien Sapiens). Anatomical modernity happened in the middle Palaeolithic, around 200,000 years ago. We have created this paper-change, to help ourselves know what we are dealing with - we refer to them as anatomically modern humans when we get phenotypes consistent with humans today (that is, when they start looking like us). However, archaic humans are our broader species too, even if they did look a little different.

Finally, I raise to you one final question, although this one is more theological than archaeological. My partner believes in evolution; he is also a strict Christian. When I asked him about it, he said that evolution made sense to him, and that it was hard not to acknowledge it's truth when dating someone in a field such as mine. However, he also said that he saw no reason why one could not believe in both evolution and in God. I was rather confused and asked him to explain; the extent of his explanation was that he believes that God guided evolution, that it was all part of the "free will" that God gave to man that allowed mankind to get more and more adept at things like tool-making and language, and that we were the end-goal in mind when God created us, but he allowed us the free will to evolve into this ourselves. It certainly opened my eyes to a third way of thinking, where science and theology did not have to be pitted against one another. How do you feel about this take on evolution?

I apologise for dumping a lot of information on you, I promise I have tried to make it understandable to someone who is not an archaeologist. Please do let me know if I should attempt to explain something differently.

RKBentley said...


Thanks for visiting my blog and for your comments. I always welcome comments from people who disagree with me. Indeed, people who disagree agree with me are the very people I want to reach. That your comments are also very civil is certainly a plus. I apologize that it's taken me a while to respond. You've made a lot of points and I can't get to all of them so it is usually my practice to hit a few highlights.

Do you personally believe the Laetoli footprints were made by A. afarensis? Obviously, the prints are very human (Homo) like but Lucy is a member of species A. afarensis. You say that Little Foot was likely not A. afarensis. Just for the sake of argument, let's agree on that. If we limit our opinions to only actually fossils of indisputable A. afarensis, do you think it had very human-like hands and feet? I don't think the Laetoli prints could have possibly been made by a Lucy type creature. Yet the prints are dated to 3 myo which is older than H. habilis (2.8 myo). Why is every reconstruction of Lucy depicted with VERY human like feet and hands?

The Laetoli footprints create quite a quandary for your theory. According to your dating methods, they are too old to be made by genus Homo and to modern-looking to be made by genus Australopithecus. The solution by your team has been to assign modern, human features to an ape-like creature in spite of the fossil evidence.

I suggest that the tracks are not 3 myo, they were made by humans, and A. afarensis is an extinct species of ape. No mental gymnastics necessary.

Thank you again for your comments. Please keep visiting. God bless!!