Preliminary paleohistological observations of the StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) skull

22 Feb 2022

Numerous aspects of early hominin biology remain debated or simply unknown. However, recent developments in high-resolution imaging techniques have opened new avenues in the field of paleoanthropology. More specifically, X-ray synchrotron-based analytical imaging techniques have the potential to provide crucial details on the ontogeny, physiology, biomechanics, and biological identity of fossil specimens. Here we present preliminary results of our X-ray synchrotron-based investigation of the skull of the 3.67-million-year-old Australopithecus specimen StW 573 (‘Little Foot’) at the I12 beamline of the Diamond Light Source (United Kingdom). Besides showing fine details of the enamel (i.e., hypoplasias) and cementum (i.e., incremental lines), as well as of the cranial bone microarchitecture (e.g., diploic channels), our synchrotron-based investigation reveals for the first time the 3D spatial organization of the Haversian systems in the mandibular symphysis of an early hominin.