Researchers in South Africa have unveiled what they call "the most complete skeleton of a human ancestor of more than 1.5 million years."
The University of the Witwatersrand exhibited the nearly complete Australopithecus fossil on Wednesday.  The skeleton dates back 3.6 million years. Its discovery is expected to help researchers better understand the appearance and movement of human ancestors.
Researchers say it took 20 years to excavate, clean, reconstruct and analyze the fragile skeleton.
The skeleton, called Little Foot discovered in the caves of Sterkfontein, about 25 miles northwest of Johannesburg when small foot bones were found in the rock mined by the miners.
Professor Ron Clarke and his assistants found the fossils and spent years digging, cleaning, analyzing and reconstructing the skeleton.
The discovery is a source of pride for Africans, said Robert Blumenschine, chief scientist of the organization that funded the excavation, the Paleontological Scientific Trust (PAST).
"Africa is not only the storehouse of the ancient fossil heritage for people around the world, but it was also the source of everything that makes us human, including dick our technological prowess, our artistic ability and our supreme intellect, "said Blumenschine.
Adam Habib, vice chancellor of the University of Witswatersrand, greeted the entire skeleton assembly.
"This is a historic achievement for the global scientific community and the heritage of South Africa," said Habib. "It is through important discoveries like Little Foot that we get a glimpse into our past that helps us better understand our common humanity"