Although remarkable, the age of the prints was uncontroversial. But what did prove to be extremely contentious were the conclusions that the paper made about what animal had made the footprints. The scientists reported that there were two tracks – and that they had been made by a creature that walked on two legs and stood vertically.
And this information led the scientists to make the controversial claim that the animals that had walked on these sediments 5.7 million years ago were hominins. This is the modern term that scientists use to describe all types of humans and their immediate ancestors, including those that are now extinct. Neanderthals, for example, are classed as hominins.
But why is this identification of 5.7 million-year-old hominin footprints on a Cretan beach so controversial? Well, the answer to that lies in the overwhelming consensus about the emergence of Homo sapiens that has held sway for decades in the world of paleoanthropology.