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Laetoli footprints were human (Talk.Origins)

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Response Article
This article (Laetoli footprints were human (Talk.Origins)) is a response to a rebuttal of a creationist claim published by Talk.Origins Archive under the title Index to Creationist Claims.


Claim CC052:

The Laetoli footprints, dated 3.7 million years old, appear to be those of modern humans.

Source:

  • Gish, Duane T., 1985. Evolution: The challenge of the fossil record. El Cajon, CA: Creation-Life Publishers, pp. 174-176.


CreationWiki response: (Talk.Origins quotes in blue)

1. How similar the Laetoli footprints look to australopithecine feet is a matter of debate. Tuttle (1990) thought that they were too humanlike for Australopithecus afarensis and may have belonged to another species of australopithecine or to an early Homo species. Other anthropologists think they are significantly different from Homo and could be A. afarensis. Creationists tend to cite only Tuttle because he best supports their view.

Tuttle indicated that the prints are so human that they would have been classified as Homo sapiens if they had been dated as younger. But he is not the only source that shows just how human these prints are. The Smithsonian Institution provides additional support for the human-like nature of these prints:

The importance of the fossil footprints at Laetoli cannot be overstated. They demonstrate incontrovertibly that 3.6 million years ago, early humans were bipedal (walking upright on two legs). Their big toes hardly diverged from the rest of the foot, this can be seen in the photograph at the top right of the imprint. In comparison, a chimpanzee has a highly diverged big toe, and is able to use it like a thumb. Additionally, it is pssoible [sic] to tell that the gait of these early humans was "heel-strike" (the heel of the foot hit first) followed by "toe-off" (the toes push off at the end of the stride); the way modern humans walk. Thus, bipedality was essentially developed by this time.

Even though they go on to attribute the prints to Australopithecus afarensis, their description shows just how human the tracks are. Furthermore, based on the Laetoli footprints, Australopithecus afarensis was often depicted with human-like feet.

It is interesting to note which side has the most to lose if their interpretation of the Laetoli footprints is wrong. If the Laetoli footprints are shown to be compatible with afarensis's ape-like foot, it is no problem for Creation Science since both humans and afarensis are thought to have lived together. If however the prints are human, evolutionists would have human beings 3.6 million years old, which would devastate their "family" tree.

Thanks to the fossil called "Little Foot" (fossil Stw 573) we now know that the joints of afarensis's foot bones showed the flexibility that suggests it was capable of grasping limbs, like chimpanzees do, and totally unlike a human foot. As a result, evolutionists now claim that the prints are compatible with an ape-like foot. While it has been shown that a chimpanzee makes a print with its big toe aligned with the others, it does not seem to do it in a manner or with a consistency that would allow afarensis's ape-like foot to have made the Laetoli footprints.

R.J. Clarke has stated that a newer set of prints were definitely ape-like, but there is a gap in the tracks which could suggest that the human and ape-like prints were made by different individuals. More research is needed on this.

References

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