This is an important question because many anthropologists see bipedalism or bipedalism—walking on two legs—When did we start walking—as a characteristic of “hominins” or modern humans and their ancestors.
When Did We Start Walking
It is difficult to explain it in a simple way because bipedalism did not appear overnight. It was the product of a gradual evolution that began millions of years ago.
Of course, there are no videos of the first person to start walking upright. So how do scientists try to answer the question of how humans moved in ancient times?
Fortunately, the shape of the bones found and how they fit together gives them insight into how a creature moved when it was alive. And anthropologists can also find evidence of it in the landscape.
In 1994, the first fossils of a hominin species —a subtribe of hominid primates characterized by upright posture and bipedal locomotion— were found in Ethiopia until then unknown
The anthropologists in charge of the new discovery described them as the remains of an adult female belonging to the species Ardipithecus ramidus, which they later called ” Ardi”.
Over the next 10 years, they found up to 100 fossils of Ardi’s species that they dated to between 4.2 and 4.4 million years old.
Characteristics of the biped
When the scientists examined the collection of bones, they identified certain features that indicated bipedalism.
The structure of the foot, for example, allowed us to take steps using our toes, just as we do today, and that apes that walk on all fours do not.
The shape of the pelvis and the way the legs fit into it also suggest that the creatures the bones belonged to walked on two legs.
Ardi’s walk may not have been exactly like ours, but the peculiarities of these fossils over 4.4 million years old suggest that bipedalism was their natural way of moving.
Anthropologists have also found in Ethiopia that 40% of the skeleton of a hominin species lived millions of years after Ardi.
Because of its similarities to the other fossils found in southern and eastern Africa, they named it Australopithecus afarensis, which is Latin for “southern ape from a distant region”.
Like Ardi, the new fossil was from a female. Anthropologists named her “Lucy”, inspired by Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, a song by the British band The Beatles that was popular at the time.
Many more fossils of this species have been found—up to 300 individuals—so researchers now know quite a bit about Lucy and her relatives.
Having found a well-preserved part of Lucy’s pelvis allowed them to know that she was a woman. The way her upper legs fit into it made it clear to them that she was bipedal.
The scientists also found other important evidence of how individuals of Lucy’s species moved at Laetoli, a Lower Palaeolithic site in Tanzania.
Under a layer of volcanic ash from 3.6 million years ago, anthropologists found fossilized footprints.
There are about 70 footprints that extend for about 30 meters, which indicates that they could have been three individuals that walked on two legs and that, due to the age of the footprints, they belonged to the Australopithecus afarensis species.
A hominid whose anatomy was so similar to ours that we can say that it walked like us did not appear in Africa until 1.8 million years ago.
Skeletons of Lucy’s species continued to be found in Ethiopia.
Homo erectus was the first to have long legs and shorter arms, which would have allowed them to walk, run, and move across Earth’s landscapes as we do today.
It also had a much larger brain than earlier bipedal hominins and made and used stone tools known as Acheulean.
Anthropologists consider Homo erectus to be our close relative and one of the earliest members of our own genus, Homo.
As you can see, human walking took a long time to develop. It appeared in Africa more than 4.4 million years ago, long before tool making.
But why did they start walking upright?
It may have made it easier for them to see predators or allowed them to run faster. Or maybe the environment changed and there were fewer trees to climb.
In any case, humans and their ancestors started walking very early in their evolutionary history.
Although bipedalism began before tool making, the upright posture left their hands free to make and use tools, which eventually became one of the hallmarks of humans.