Police arrests 55-year-old man over theft of 5.7 mln-year-old footprints in Crete

ERT — Greek police arrested on Friday a 55-year-old man in connection with the theft of 10 fossilised footprints which were stolen on earlier this week from the site where they were uncovered in Kissamos, Western Crete, authorities said.

The suspect faces charges of violating laws on protection of cultural heritage. Authorities were able to locate quickly in regions of Kissamos and Thessaloniki all ten fossils. The objects will be send to Chania to be examined by experts.

Ten of some 40 footprints on the site were cut away and removed from the rock where they were found by a Polish paleontologist in 2002. The 5.7-million-year-old fossils are believed to belong to a hominid ancestor of modern humans and their discovery could upend established theories of human evolution.

The theft was reported by a member of the public that visited the site on Tuesday and alerted local police, and was later confirmed by the Natural History Museum of Crete. The investigation in the case is continuing.

To protect the site from further vandalism Cretan authorities moved swiftly to bury it temporarily while a more permanent conservation solution is sought. The whole area has been 3D-scanned with an optical laser scanner in high resolution as part of the original study, so there will not be much of an impact on the research.