When Was Walking Invented

when was walking invented
when was walking invented

Walking, a seemingly simple act that we engage in every day, is actually a fascinating part of our evolutionary history. As one of the defining characteristics of modern humans and their ancestors, the origin of walking, or bipedalism, holds great significance. So, when and how was walking invented? Let’s dive into the story.

The Gradual Evolution of Bipedalism

Bipedalism did not simply appear out of nowhere. It underwent a gradual evolution that began millions of years ago. While there are no video clips of the first person ever walking upright, scientists have found ways to unravel the mysteries of our ancient past.

They study the shape and structure of ancient creatures’ bones to understand how their bodies moved. Additionally, evidence found in the landscape provides valuable insights into how ancient people walked. It is through these means that we have gained knowledge about the early stages of bipedalism.

Ardi and the Discovery of Bipedalism

In 1994, anthropologists made a monumental discovery in Ethiopia. They unearthed the fossils of an unknown hominin, later named “Ardipithecus ramidus” or “Ardi” for short. This adult female individual lived around 4.2 to 4.4 million years ago.

Upon examining Ardi’s bones, scientists identified characteristics indicative of bipedalism. The foot structure allowed for toe push-off, a feature that distinguishes us from four-legged apes. The shape of the pelvic bones and how the legs were positioned under the pelvis further suggested upright walking. Although Ardi’s walking style may not have been identical to ours today, bipedalism appears to have been present as early as 4.4 million years ago.

The Story of Lucy and Australopithecus afarensis

About a million years after Ardi, another significant hominin was discovered in Ethiopia. This female individual, belonging to the species Australopithecus afarensis, was named “Lucy.” Lucy’s remains, along with over 300 other individuals from her species, have provided researchers with valuable insights.

Lucy’s well-preserved pelvis and the way her upper leg bones fit together indicated that she walked upright on two legs. Subsequent discoveries of Australopithecus afarensis fossils, including feet, further confirmed their bipedal walking.

Laetoli Footprints and Solid Evidence

In Tanzania’s Laetoli site, scientists found remarkable evidence of how Lucy’s species moved. Beneath a layer of volcanic ash dating back 3.6 million years, fossilized footprints were discovered. These footprints spanned almost 100 feet and showed the presence of at least three individuals walking upright on two feet. The makers of these footprints were likely Australopithecus afarensis, providing solid evidence for bipedalism 3.5 million years ago.

Homo Erectus and the Emergence of Human-like Walking

It wasn’t until 1.8 million years ago that a hominin with anatomy closely resembling our own appeared in Africa. Homo erectus was the first to possess long legs and shorter arms, enabling them to walk, run, and move across Earth’s landscapes as we do today. Homo erectus also had a larger brain compared to earlier bipedal hominins and developed the use of stone tools called Acheulean implements. Anthropologists consider Homo erectus as our close relative and an early member of our own genus, Homo.

Conclusion

Human walking took an extensive amount of time to develop. It emerged in Africa over 4.4 million years ago, preceding the advent of tool-making. The reasons behind hominins’ transition to bipedalism remain somewhat speculative. Some theories propose that it allowed them to better see predators, run faster, or adapt to changing environments with fewer trees to climb.

Regardless of the exact reasons, the act of walking set our ancestors on a unique path. Bipedalism freed their hands, ultimately leading to the remarkable ability to make and use tools—an important hallmark of humans like us.

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