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New footprints from Ileret, Kenya, supposed to be from human evolutionary ancestor

And all based on the angle of the big toe!


From Bennett et al., ref. 2.

Color-rendered optical laser scan of footprints in the second and third trail at Ileret, Kenya.

Color-rendered optical laser scan of footprints in the second and third trail at Ileret, Kenya.

Published: 12 March 2009(GMT+10)

A new discovery has just been made of “hominin” footprints at Ileret, Kenya, and dated at 1.51 to 1.53 million years ago.1,2

They were found along with footprints of animals on two different levels of strata, separated vertically by 5 metres, in what are described as fine-grained, normally graded silt and sand units deposited as overbank flood deposits. The dates were based on a tenuous interpretation of three volcanic layers within the strata—tenuous because the ash layers had been reworked by flowing water.

The footprints are essentially like those of modern humans, having the same size and sometimes showing the toes as well. However, the researchers were able to conjure out a little evidence to justify saying the prints are only “human-like”. The evidence they relied on was the angle between the impression of the big toe and the long axis of the foot. The angle they measured for the Ileret prints ranged from 9° to 17° whereas the angle for modern humans is about 8°. The angle for supposedly “more primitive” footprints found in Laetoli, Tanzania was 22° to 34°. Apart from this, the characteristics of the Ileret prints were almost identical with modern humans. The researchers attribute the Ileret footprints to the only alleged human ancestor supposed to be around at the time, which is Homo ergaster/erectus.

How could the human foot evolve?

The human foot shows amazing design among its twenty-six bones, such as the ability of the bones to absorb shock, and to flex at the mid foot and push off. How such a design could have come about by undirected processes is another one of those evolutionary miracles. Evolutionists commonly attribute such amazing design to natural selection,3 often claiming that the design is only “apparent” and rarely explaining how natural selection combined with random mutations could accomplish such feats. Natural selection has been shown to be predominantly conservative, and not a creative force.4 Observed mutations generally degrade the genetic information, even when “beneficial” to the organism’s survival.5

In the supposed evolution of humans, many changes would need to have been made to the ape-like creature. In fact, a whole series of transitions in many structures is required. The evolutionists are very motivated to find evidence to support their beliefs and fill in the hundreds of missing links. Among the long series of transitions (called hominins) that must have occurred between the ape-like creature and humans, evolutionists envisage that the early human ape-like “ancestors” had some type of bipedal gait as long as 6 million years ago.6



Lucy—no fossil feet preserved

So, if this were the case, you would expect that the hominin foot would have become quite human-like right away.

The human foot is significantly different from an ape’s foot. In particular, the human foot has 1) shorter toes, 2) a big toe that lies alongside the others instead of angling out, and 3) an arch. So, it is relatively simple to distinguish between human and ape footprints.

Footprints are rare in the fossil record, especially footprints of humans or their supposed ape-like ancestors. One of the supposed earliest such find of prints was uncovered at Laetoli, Tanzania.

The Laetoli footprints assumed to be from “Lucy”

The Laetoli prints were discovered in 1978 by Mary Leakey and her team, and are the earliest claimed “hominin” footprints. The prints were dated at 3.75 million years according to the evolutionary timescale, using samples from ash layers. The footprints were from two or three bipedal individuals and aligned in parallel track-ways.7

In one set the tracks were small, probably by a child. The other tracks seemed disproportionately large and the researchers claimed that the individual’s feet slid a little in the rain-slick ash layer.8

There is still considerable controversy over the interpretation of the Laetoli footprints, with some claiming they are fully human and others that they were made by “an inverted foot with a divergent, grasping big toe.”9

Yet, the footprints had an overwhelming modern human appearance:

“A study of the footprints, reported here, has shown that when these hominids walked, they transmitted their body weight and the forces of propulsion to the ground in a manner very similar to that of modern man … The remarkable similarities between the modern human footprint contour patterns and those of the fossil hominids can be seen at a glance.”10

Nevertheless, these very human-like footprints at Laetoli were attributed to Australopithicus afarensis, that is “Lucy”—not surprisingly, since that is the only supposed ape-like ancestor evolutionists believe to have been around at that time!

Another claimed evolutionary ancestor

Attributing the Ileret footprints to Homo ergaster/erectus is supposed to indicate that these prints were made by an ape-like ancestor and raises the significance of the find.

The researchers claim the new footprints from Ileret, Kenya, are morphologically distinct from the Laetoli prints; the main evidence being the angle of the big toe. Yet, the larger angle of the Laetoli prints compared to modern human footprints and the Ileret prints could be simply due the individuals at Laetoli slipping along on the wet surface, or to other similar factors. Of course, attributing the Ileret footprints to Homo ergaster/erectus is supposed to indicate that these prints were made by an ape-like ancestor, and raises the significance of the find.

In spite of the headlines that were flashed around the globe, the claim that the footprints are from our evolutionary ancestor does not rest on a very secure footing. Overwhelmingly, the evidence is that Homo erectus as well as Neanderthal man were fully human, the minor skeletal differences representing simply variation within the original created kind.11

Recommended Resources


  1. Crompton, R.H. and Pataky, T.C., Stepping out, Science 323, pp. 1,174–1,175, 2009. Return to text.
  2. Bennett, M.R., Harris, J.W.K., Richmond, B.G., Braun, D.R., Mbua, E., Kiura, P., Olago, D., Kibunjia, M., Omuombo, C., Behrensmeyher, A.K., Huddart, D. and Gonzalez, S., Early hominin foot morphology based on 1.5-million-year-old footprints from Ileret, Kenya, Science 323, pp. 1,197–1,201, 2009. Return to text.
  3. Dawkins, R., The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design, W.W. Norton & Company, London, 1986. Return to text.
  4. Johnson, P.E., Darwin on Trial, Regnery Gateway, Washington D.C., pp. 15–31, 1991. See also Return to text.
  5. See Return to text.
  6. Bennett et al., ref 2, p. 1,197. Return to text.
  7. Johanson, D. and Shreeve, J., Lucy’s Child: The Discovery of a Human Ancestor, William Morrow and Company, New York, 1989. Return to text.
  8. Johanson and Shreeve, ref. 7, p. 192. Return to text.
  9. Crompton and Pataky, ref. 1, p. 1,174. Return to text.
  10. Day, M.H. and Wickens, E.H., Laetoli Pliocene hominid footprints and bipedalism, Nature 286, pp. 385, 386, 1980. Return to text.
  11. Lubenow, M.L., Bones of Contention: A Creationist Assessment of Human Fossils, Baker Publishing Group, Grand Rapids, Michigan. Return to text.

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