Zahi Hawass, the secretary general of the Egyptian Supreme Council of Antiquities, is announcing the discovery of a very old hominid footprint found in the Western Desert of Egypt, near Siwa.
BBC News broke this news to me, but Yahoo News is also covering it.
“This could go back about two million years,” antiquities council chief Zahi Hawass was quoted by Reuters as saying. However Khaled Saad, director of pre-history at the council, said it could be older still…
Scientists are now conducting carbon dating tests on plants in the mud where the footprint is in order to pinpoint its precise age.
Unfortunately, I can’t confirm if the photos of a footprint circulating around on some blogs are the actual footprints discovered. Rather than misinform y’all, I’ll have to sit tight until official photographs of them come from Hawass.
And also, unlike Hawass, I’m not jumping up for joy saying this, “could be the most important discovery in Egypt.” The significance of these footprints, if they really are older than two million years ago, is pretty outstanding. These footprints, along with the ones found at Laetoli, could be further evidence of early hominids walked upright before large brains had evolved…
But, I can’t help but wonder if the carbon dating will even work? The current maximum radiocarbon age limit lies in the range between 58,000 and 62,000 years (approximately 10 half-lives). This limit is encountered when the radioactivity of the residual 14C in a sample is too low to be distinguished from the background radiation. Maybe another dating technique would be more useful?