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Who invented walking? The answer may surprise you

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Who invented walking? Learn when walking was invented, who the first humans to walk upright were, and how it’s the easiest cardio exercise.

Jump to: Why do humans walk | Who invented walking | When was walking invented | The first humans to walk upright | Sources

Why do humans walk?

Our ancestors had to develop the bones and muscles to crawl and stand before walking could be invented.

Most of us consider the ability to walk upright as the a key separator between ourselves and our ape-like ancestors. “Bipedalism” is the term used to describe what we colloquially refer to as “walking”. It’s something we take for granted and it’s so easy, a baby can nearly do it.

Speaking of babies, they’re a great example of how scientists think humans grew into the innovative, cutting-edge technology of ‘walking’. As babies develop, they start by learning to hold their heads up, begin to crawl on all fours (quadrupedal), work up to standing, then eventually take their first steps upright as bipeds.

Who invented walking?

While it’s easy to sit around in 2022 and picture a genius early human having a wave of inspiration and just deciding to take their first steps, it couldn’t have been an overnight development. When you look at how human skeletons are built, there were some very important items which had to evolve over time. The list is a hefty one, including things like a foot and ankle shaped in a way which could support our body weight, the leg and torso muscles and bones needed to hold ourselves upright and allow us to stabilize, and the right inner ear conditions to allow us to balance as we stood and took those steps.

A woman with black shorts and a backpack hikes on a rock face overlooking a waterfall and dark, deep pool of water.
The ability for humans to walk wasn’t invented overnight – it took many millennia to evolve into modern day humans with the ability to walk.

When was walking invented

As you can tell by reading this article so far, it’s not so easy to pin down exactly when walking was discovered. In 2000, scientists in Kenya found bones of a humanoid species they call Orrorin tugenensis, which had thigh bones in a shape which implied it walked upright, which makes the best guess that early forms of walking could have been around six million years ago.

A brown plastic neanderthal toy is staged walking in a green forest on a brown trail of crumbling leaves.
Walking was likely invented by ancestors of humans many millions of years ago, ancestors which would look very different from humans today.

That’s where we split this into another question: what do you consider to be a human? If you wanted to go the sciency route, Orrorin tugenensis is considered a biped but not a hominid.

Oh, right. So, hominid is a term zoologists use to describe humans and our fossilized ancestors. Orrorin has the nickname of “Millennium Man” and likely looked much closer to a chimpanzee than what we’d consider to be a hominid.

If you wanted to get a little closer to when humans discovered walking, it may be as simple as saying that, by the time humans had evolved, walking was already inherent in the human toolset. But if you wanted a specific year walking was invented? The earliest hominid with significant evidence indicating they may have been bipedal was Ardipithecus ramidus, which has been dated back 4.4-million years.

The first humans to walk upright

A scientists with dark skin and a beard inspects remains of a bone fragment with a number of other bone fragments littering a table in front of him.
Ardi is widely considered the be the earliest fully-erect ancestor of humans to walk. It’s estimated the first walkers who eventually evolved into humans roamed the earth 4.4 million years ago.

After 15 years of research and analysis of 125 different fossilized bone fragments, scientists announced Ardipithecus ramidus (or “Ardi”) in 2009. It’s the most complete specimen of an early hominid researches have been able to put together and replaced the specimen known as “Lucy” and reinforces the idea that the first human-like species to walk upright did so about four and a half million years ago.

On the scale of hominid history, the earliest stone tools appear to be from about a million years later, with homo habilis growing beyond Africa two and a half million years ago, homo erectus beginning to use fire two million years ago, neanderthals becoming prevalent 750,000 years ago, and homo sapiens (I like to call them “us”) coming into the picture just in the last 500,000 years. All traceable back to a distant, less-related ancestor over six million years ago.

Sources

Ben Garves
Ben Garveshttps://www.woddityhealth.com/
Ben is a digital media entrepreneur, elite fitness analyst, activist, and CrossFit Level 1 coach. He founded WODDITY in 2017, making tools and resources for the CrossFit Community. You can find his content all over the internet, including contributions to BarBend.com, his blog at BenGarves.com, YouTube, and the Ben Garves Podcast.

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