Anthropologist D. Carl Johanson recently discovered the skull fragment, shin and thigh bones of a 3-million-year-old man in Ethiopia. The bones belonged to an ape man (hominid) of the genus Australopithecus, providing concrete evidence that our ancestors walked on two legs over 3 million years ago.
Paleoanthropologists have long been fascinated by whether or not early humans walked upright on two legs. While some studies suggest that hominid species ambled around on two legs about 5 million to 7 million years ago, others are skeptical about this interpretation. For example, an upper leg bone of the oldest known, 7-million-year-old Sahelanthropus tchadensis, bears signs of upright walking including an inner projection near the hip joint. However, not all scientists are convinced that these features prove a two-legged gait.
One such scientist is Maria Temming, who has bachelor’s degrees in physics and English and a master’s in science writing. She is now the assistant editor at Science News Explores and was previously the staff writer for physical sciences at Science News. Temming believes that while fossil analyses can provide valuable insights into our past, it’s important to approach these discoveries with caution and skepticism.
“It’s always important to remember that we can only make assumptions based on the available evidence,” she said. “And while fossils can give us a glimpse into what our ancestors might have looked like or behaved like, we should never assume that we fully understand their way of life.”
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