Key hominid fossil found at "Cradle of Humankind" is younger than thought





A key fossil found at South Africa's Sterkfontein Cave, a site dubbed "the Cradle of Humankind" for its trove of hominid relics, is far younger than initially thought, a new study says.

"Little Foot," a fossil with both ape-like and human features, was found in the 1990s thanks to remarkable luck and diligent work.

It was first dated to between 3.0 and 3.5 million years old, and later to more than 4.1 million years.

Those dates generated huge excitement.

For one thing, they threw up a South African contemporary to "Lucy," the famous Australopithecus afarensis fossil found in Ethiopia's Awash Valley in 1974 and, until then, chief contender for the title of ancestor of mankind.

But a paper published in the US journal Science on Thursday says Little Foot's age is likely to be around 2.2 million years. If so, rather than being man's direct ancestor, Little Foot is more likely to have been a distant cousin.

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