Scientific Methods

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Power point Abstract: Elizabeth van der Merwe

The Laetoli Footprints (ppt)


Elizabeth van der Merwe

2538521, University of the Western Cape, Bellville, South Africa




It is amazing that important information does not always appear in the expected way, but somehow has a way of appearing suddenly in the most unusual ways as the evidence of early bipedalism that was not confirmed from early fossil bones, but from an unusual fossil type namely homonid footprints preserved in volcanic ash (Tattersall, 1995). The footprints are so unique because in it behavior itself was conserved and behavior is one of the aspects that normally have to be inferred from fossil bones (Tattersall, 1995).


The footprints found at the Laetoli site represents the oldest evidence of hominoid  presence, which date back between 3,5 and 3,7 million years ago (Johanson et al. 1990; Lewin et al. 2004; Tattersall, 1995). One of the most important aspects explained in this presentation is the profound conditions that led to the preservation of the footprints in such perfect order. This includes the interaction between chemical and physical aspects of nature to preserve history.


Discoveries like this does not happen overnight, it includes a lot of insight, persuasive powers, arguments and conflict situations, perseverance, patience, precision, accuracy and finally a lot of very hard physical labor. Like the saying goes: “ the more people, the more different views” and in this case it is definitely applicable, because scientists like Mary Leakey, Louise Robbins, Tim White, Ron Clarke, Jack Stern, Randy Susman, Yvette Deloison, etc. all had their own interpretation of who were the owners of the homonid Laetoli footprints.


An important question is: Why is this obvious display of bipedalism so important? The answer lie in that bipedalism is considered as a modern human feature and has surpassed the animal quadruped features. Then after all, what happens now after the prints were exposed? How will it be preserved and who are now responsible for the conservation and maintenance of conservation?


The Laetoli footprints are also considered by some as the most spectacular archaeological discovery of the century (Leaky, 1981). The footprints have conserved for us a portrait of a few moments in the lives of some of our possible ancestors (Leaky, 1981).




Johanson  D,  Shreeve  J  (1990) Lucy’s child – The discovery of a human ancestor.

       Early Man Publishing Inc. Great Britain, pp 25-284.


Leaky RE  (1981)  The making of Mankind. Dai Nippon Printing Company Limited,

       Japan,  pp 40-70.


Lewin  R,  Foley  RA  (2004)  Principles of Human Evolution. Blackwell Science Ltd.  

       United Kingdom, pp 235-263.


Tattersall  I  (1995)  The last Neanderthal – The Rise, Success and Mysterious

       Extinction of our closest Human Relatives. Nevraumont Publishing Company,

       New York,  pp 39-40


Elizabeth van der Merwe
BCB Department
University of Western Cape


  • The abstract is fine - but can I politely remind you of the instructions to submit to the Weblog.

    Subject topic is to be in CAPITALS

    Use the html view in Groupwise to compose your email so formating (links and italics) are captured.



    By Blogger Rich Knight, at Friday, April 07, 2006 9:59:00 AM  

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