The distinctive human habit of walking upright may have evolved millions of years earlier than thought, according to researchers who uncovered the remains of an ancient ape in southern Germany.
Excavations from the Hammerschmiede clay pit in Bavaria turned up fossilised bones belonging to a previously unknown baboon-sized ape that lived nearly 12m years ago, long before humans split from their modern-day cousins, the chimpanzees and bonobos.
“It was astonishing for us to realise during the process of research how similar certain bones were to humans, as opposed to great apes,” said Madelaine Böhme, who led the study at the University of Tübingen. The fossils, which include remains from two females, a male and a juvenile, were excavated between 2015 and 2018.
According to Böhme, the findings suggest that our upright posture can be traced to a common ancestor of humans and great apes that lived in Europe rather than Africa.