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3.6 million year old skeleton was found, shocking scientists

The virtually complete Australopithecus fossil “Little Foot” is shown at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa, Wednesday, Dec. 6, 2017. Researchers in South Africa have unveiled what they call “by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found.” (AP Photo/Themba Hadebe)

JOHANNESBURG (AP) — Researchers in South Africa have unveiled what they call “by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found.”

The University of the Witwatersrand displayed, and the virtually complete Australopithecus fossil on Wednesday.

The skeleton dates back 3.6 million years. The discovery is expected to help researchers better understand the human ancestor of the appearance and movement. The researchers say that it has taken 20 years to dig, to clean, reconstruct, and analyze the vulnerable skeleton.

The skeleton called Little Foot, was discovered in the Sterkfontein caves, about 40 kilometers northwest of Johannesburg, as a small foot bones were found in the rock blown away by the miners.

Professor Ron Clarke and his staff the fossils and brought a year to dig, to clean, to analyze and reconstruct the skeleton.

The discovery is a source of pride for the Africans, said Robert Blumenschine, chief scientist at the organization that funded the excavation, the Paleontological Scientific Trust (PAST).

“Not only is Africa the storehouse of the old fossil heritage for people all over the world, it was also the source of all that makes us human, including our technological superiority, our artistic ability and our highest intellect,” said Blumenschine.

Adam Habib, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Witswatersrand, greeted the assembly of the full skeleton.

“This is a milestone for the global scientific community and South Africa’s legacy,” said Habib. “It is by the important discoveries, such as foot, that we get a glimpse into our past that helps us to better understand our common humanity.”

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