Link: South African Daily Maverick reports on Little Foot

1 minute read

Elsabe Brits has written a long article covering the recent releases of preprints and papers about the StW 573 “Little Foot” skeleton: “SA’s most complete human ancestor — a bone of contention”.

This is a good article that details the scientific importance of the specimen, the history of its discovery, and features the new published work on the endocast of the specimen by Amélie Beaudet and coworkers.

I usually disapprove of articles that try to push the idea of “controversy” about scientific findings in human origins. Such articles usually set up a false equivalence between experts who have worked for years on something, and scientists outside a research project who may just be seeing the results for the first time. Here, the only new dispute is about the assignment of the skeleton to Au. prometheus, and in my view the article avoids “false equivalence” by giving fairly long and contextualized statements from scientists (including me).

That approach helps to explain why scientists don’t agree in this case. I’ll just quote one short passage from the end of the article:

“I am not concerned about what others ‘think.’ It is I who have worked for 20 years on extracting, cleaning and reconstructing the specimen and thus I understand it better than they do.”
Little Foot may well turn out to become one of the most interesting debates in science for years to come. She is exceptionally well preserved, very complete and yet again a beautiful example from South Africa’s rich fossil heritage.

I think that is a totally appropriate final word outlining the importance and enduring value of the discovery.