Thanks again to The Other McCain for the Rule Five links!
This is cool; a team of Italian paleo-anthropologists have uncovered some 800,000 year old footprints, which puts them in the time frame of H. erectus. Excerpt:
The prints are thought to date back some 800,000 years and were unearthed in the desert of south eastern Eritrea.
“Their age is yet to be confirmed with certainty, but footprints will reveal a lot about the evolution of man, because they provide vital information about our ancestors gait and locomotion,” Alfredo Coppa, the Italian archaeologist from Rome’s Sapienza university who led the dig, told The Local.
Coppa and his Italian colleagues were working with researchers from Eritrea’s National Museum when they unearthed the 26 m2 slab of stone containing the footprints.
Today, the area lies in the middle of an arid desert, but 800,000 years ago the environment was very different.
The fossilized footprints, which are almost indistinguishable to those of modern man, were left in sandy sediments on what archaeologists believe was once the shore of a large lake.
Homo erectus may seem primitive to us, but they were in fact amazingly successful people. They managed to survive in a howling wilderness for a million and a half years, were the first people to harness fire, and survived for all that time with no changes in behavior or tool kit that we know of – all the while expanding out of Africa into Europe, Asia and even the Indonesian archipelago. They used fire, they hunted, they may have even built and used watercraft.
The H. erectus were a successful, innovative species that persisted for 1.5 million years, populated the better part of the planet, and produced some of the greatest innovations that finally and irretrievably set humans apart from the rest of the animal kingdom. They likely gave rise to at least one other species, H. floresiensis, the badly-named “Hobbits” of Indonesia.
They are a testament to human tenacity, people we can all be proud to count among our ancestors. And this is a cool discovery.