For many years, scientists have relentlessly attempted to reveal the mystery of human evolution in spite of the limited fossil bones and stone tools unearthed. Now, Homo erectus footprints found in northern Kenya reveal that these extinct ancestors of modern humans actually walked like us and lived in a group with social structures similar to ours.

The international team of researchers led by scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig says that the 1.5 million-year-old hominin footprints from Ileret, Kenya shed light into when and how we started walking the way we do. This bipedal locomotion separates us from other primates and could have affected all of our ancestors’ biologies.

“Our analyses of these footprints provide some of the only direct evidence to support the common assumption that at least one of our fossil relatives at 1.5 million years ago walked in much the same way as we do today,” points out the study researcher Kevin Hatala from the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology and The George Washington University.

Homo erectus

Homo erectus’ foot anatomies and mechanics were similar to those of modern humans. Credit: Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology

A total of 97 footprints from five different sites were discovered in 2009. The researchers believe that at least 20 Homo erectus individuals crated these.

The footprints were possibly made by several adult males who tolerated and even cooperated with one another. The research team notes that the cooperation between males resembles our social behaviors that distinguish Homo sapiens or modern humans from other primates.

Recently, another group of researchers found size 12 footprints also created by Homo erectus. The footprints show clear toe details like longitudinal arch and an abducted toe, and date back to 800,000 years ago.

These footprints are among the oldest ones found. These are preserved on hardened sandy sediment. This discovery was made by the National Museum of Eritrea in collaboration with researchers from La Sapienza University in Rome.