Ancient Humans Walked Upright but Climbed Like Apes

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Courtesy of Arthur Chapman (Flickr CC0)

A new study of 2 million-year-old vertebrae fossils indicates an ancient hominid relative was able to walk the ground upright and climb/swing with their arms like apes — or Tarzan. An international team of 17 institutions, including the New York University and the University of the Witwatersrand, studied lower vertebrae bones found in 2015 that belonged to an ancient female human known as Australopithecus sediba.

Courtesy of Tim Evanson (Flickr CC0)

The ancient hominid is nicknamed “Issa” which is Swahili for protector. Experts were able to piece together all of the bone pieces collected creating one of the most complete lower lumbar’s ever discovered in the early hominid record. The bones give an indication as to how ancient humans moved around.

These newly studied lower lumbar fossils have provided researchers with a missing link that proved the Australopithecus sediba used their arms to climb like apes while using their lower limbs to walk like humans today.

The bones were unearthed in 2015 during excavations of a mining trackway running next to the Malapa in the Cradle of Humankind World Heritage Site — located in Johannesburg, South Africa.

To avoid the risk of damage the fossils were then virtually prepared and reunited with the pieces previously discovered in 2010. Researchers found the previous fossils articulated with the newly discovered spinal bones.

Researchers established Issa the ancient hominid had only five lumbar vertebrae — just like humans today. The author on the study and leader of the Malapa project, Professor Lee Berger, stated, “While Issa was already one of the most complete skeletons of an ancient hominin ever discovered, these vertebrae practically complete the lower back and make Issa’s lumbar region a contender for not only the best-preserved hominin lower back ever discovered, but also probably the best-preserved.”

Issa’s superb preservation showed that the curvature of Australopithecus sediba‘s spine was more extreme than any other yet discovered.

Written by Sheena Robertson


CNN: Ancient human relative walked like a human but climbed like an ape, new fossils suggest; by Hannah Ryan

Top and Featured Image Courtesy of Arthur Chapman’s Flickr Page – Creative Commons License

Inset Image Courtesy of Tim Evanson’s Flickr Page -Creative Commons License

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