Cape Town - The skull of Little Foot, the most famous Australopithecus in the world, may be freed by the end of the year from the rock where it has been embedded for over three million years.
Renowned palaeo-anthropologist Professor Ron Clarke from the University of the Witwatersrand said on Monday he hopes to have the famous skull freed by the end of the year.
Little Foot was found in 1997 in a part of the Sterkfontein Caves not open to the public.
The 3.3-million-year-old fossil is the world's most complete example of an Australopithecus. "It is almost complete, including the hand, skull, ribs, arm and leg."
Clarke will give a public lecture on October 24.
Clarke and his assistants have been working for the past eight years to get Little Foot out of the cave.
"It is like trying to remove something from a block of natural cement. There are rocks all around the skeleton," he said.
The skeleton's bones are not all together, but were scattered by a rock fall.
The fossils are exposed with a vibrating air pen. It removes small fragments of rock from the bones.
"... It's painfully slow work," Clarke said.
Little Foot is an adult hominid and probably died when he fell about 10 metres. If he survived the fall, he probably died of hunger and thirst. Closer examination of the skeleton will give more answers about his death.
Once the skull has been removed, more could be learned about his age by examining his teeth. Little Foot got his nickname from the small bones of his foot.