Scientists uncover rare 'human ancestor' skeleton

epa06371133 'Little Foot' hominid is on display during the unveiling by Professor Ronald J. Clarke (unseen) and his crew at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa, 06 December 2017. Thought to be 3.7 million years old, the hominid was found 20 years ago but only revealed to the public today. The initial find by Professor Clarke was made at the Sterkfontein Caves near Johannesburg. The recovery of the complete skeleton of the Australopithecus proved extremely difficult as it was completely embedded in concrete-like rock.  EPA/KIM LUDBROOK
Photo credit: AP

Scientists have unveiled what they say is the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor ever found.

The Associated Press reports The University of the Witwatersrand revealed the almost-complete Australopithecus fossil on Wednesday.

The skeleton is probably 3.6 million years old and is expected to help researchers understand our ancestors' appearance and movement.

Named 'Little Foot', the skeleton was found about 40 kilometres outside Johannesburg by miners, blasting rocks inside the Sterkfontein caves.

The university called it "by far the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor older than 1.5 million years ever found".

Researchers say it has taken them 20 years to excavate, clean, reconstruct and analyse the delicate skeleton.

The university is proud of the assembly, saying it's a chance for scientists to better understand evolution.

"This is a landmark achievement for the global scientific community and South Africa's heritage," university vice-chancellor Adam Habib told the Associated Press.

"It is through important discoveries like Little Foot that we obtain a glimpse into our past, which helps us to better understand our common humanity."