Who Invented Walking? Learn The History Of Walking

Walking is one of those things that we all do, yet we never really give much thought to it.

While walking is an essential part of the day for most people, just like breathing, but that wasn’t always the case.

History shows us that humans did not always walk on two legs.

But at the same time, some ancient dude didn’t just wake up and decide to start walking one day.

Bipedalism, which is the scientific term for walking on two legs, is something that evolved over time.

If you’re curious about the interesting history of walking, then keep reading.

The Evolution Of Walking

couple walking in forest

The truth is that scientists don’t know exactly when we, as a species, started walking on two feet like we do today.

Based on fossils of an unknown hominin found back in 1994 in Ethiopia, that scientists estimate being between 4.2 million and 4.4 million years old, that is the earliest evidence of bipedalism that we have found thus far.

According to the Smithsonian Magazine,  walking upright on two legs is what in our evolutionary history distinguished the first hominids from other apes.

The Smithsonian Magazine also notes the finding of the evidence of walking as far back as 7 million years ago.

In 2001, a group of French paleoanthropologists unearthed the seven-million-year-old Sahelanthropus tchadensis in Chad. Known only from a skull and teeth, Sahelanthropus‘ status as an upright walker is based solely on the placement of its foramen magnum, and many anthropologists remain skeptical about the species’ form of locomotion.

One thing that is interesting to note about this ancient evidence of the history of walking, is the walking back then did not actually look like the walking we do today.

In fact, fossils of those early walkers showed curved hands and toes, showing that they spent a lot of time in trees.

Those fossils also showed shorter legs and longer longer than modern day humans possess.

To pinpoint when walking really began to resemble the way that we do it, you have to look back to the emergence of H. erectus 1.89 million years ago.

That was the time when scientists point to the fact that hominids grew tall, evolved long legs and became completely terrestrial creatures.

human evolution

Why Did We Evolve To Walking?

While no one can definitively say why we, as a species, evolved over time to walk on two feet, the best hypothesis comes from anthropologist C. Owen Lovejoy of Kent State University.

According to Lovejoy, this evolution occurred as a result of males needing use of their arms to hold food that they gathered and brought back to their families.

Lovejoy’s theory gained steam once researchers discovered that chimpanzees exhibit bipedalism when they are carrying food or valuables.

A competing hypothesis, from Peter Rodman and Henry McHenry of the University of California, suggests that we evolved to walking because our ancestors discovered it is a more efficient way to move thanks to climate change affecting the forests they were living in during that time.

No further finds or research have given validation to that theory yet.

What Part Of The World Did Walking First Appear?

Based on fossils found that show bipedalism, there are a couple of areas of the world where we know our ancient ancestors walked on two legs.

One common area where these fossils have been found is modern day Ethiopia, on the continent of Africa.

Another area where historical evidences of walking has been discovered is Tanzania, also on the continent of Africa.

With that in mind, we can point to the continent of Africa is where in the world walking was first invented in history.

Who Invented The Word ‘Walking’?

The first evidence of the term ‘walking’ seems to date back to the 1200s.

The word has Germanic and Old English roots.

Historians theorize that the modern day term of walking evolved from the combination of two or more words at the time.

  • Wealcan – Old English for ‘toss, roll, move around’
  • Wealcian – Old English for ‘roll up, curl’
  • Walchan – Old High German for ‘kneading’ used specifically to describe a process in making cloth where the fibers were kneaded by stepping on them.

Those ancient words tend to be though of as referring to your walking gait.

Over time, Norse and Icelandic words left their mark on the term, such as the word ‘valka,  which means ‘to drag about.’

And the evolution of time has led us to the term we use to day, walk or walking.

people walking outside

When Did Walking Become Exercise Or Sport?

According to the Olympics, the sport of race walking is believed to have originated in the Victorian era (1837-1901) when noblemen used to bet on their footmen — who walked alongside their employer’s horse-driven coaches — for a winner.

While we don’t have data on when walking started to be known as a good form of exercise, we do know that it was the most popular form of exercise in the 1990s.

Final Word

As you can see, we don’t really have any definitive answers on when walking became a thing, but we can guess based on evidence found as fossil discoveries.

Over time, we may discover more fossils that help us to come up with a more definitive timeline of the history of walking.

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