Fossil footprints excavated last year at a site called Laetoli in northern Tanzania in Africa indicate that human ancestors were tall and likely had multiple wives.
13 fossil footprints were found as impressions left in volcanic ash that later hardened into rock and according to scientists these footprints are relatively large averaging a bit over 10 inches long, suggest they were made by a male member of the species known as Australopithecus afarensis. The male could have been as tool as 5-foot-5 and could have weighed around 100 pounds. The male could have been at least 8 inches taller than the individuals who made the other tracks, and stood maybe 3 inches taller than a large A. afarensis specimen previously found in Ethiopia.
Researchers found the footprints at the same site where previous excavations had led to discovery to another set of smaller footprints left by other A. afarensis individuals. Scientists have given the new human ancestor the name of creature S1, for the first discovery made at the “S” site. The findings are published in a report in journal eLife.
Scientists do not know the age or sexes of any of the track-makers, although the size of the latest footprints suggest they were made by a male. If the prints were left behind by a male, it indicates that A. afarensis males were a lot bigger than females, with more of a difference than what is seen in modern humans, the researchers say. That’s not a new idea, but it’s still under debate.
Further, the large male-female disparity is indicative of a possible gorilla-like social arrangement within A. afarensis wherein there is just one dominant male with a group of females and their offspring, the researchers said.
The height of ‘S1’ hasn’t received enough support with other scientists claiming that there aren’t enough of an A. afarensis foot to reliably calculate height from footprints.