02/07/2019 - 00:00

Bipedalism is a hallmark of being human and the human foot is modified to reflect this unique form of locomotion. Leonardo da Vinci is credited with calling the human foot “a masterpiece of engineering and a work of art.” However, a scientific approach to human origins has revealed that our feet are products of a long, evolutionary history in which a mobile, grasping organ has been converted into a propulsive structure adapted for the rigors of bipedal locomotion. Reconstructing the evolutionary history of foot anatomy benefits from a fossil record; yet, until recently the human foot fossil record consisted mostly of fragmentary remains. However, in the last two decades, the human foot fossil record has quadrupled, and these new discoveries have fostered new perspectives on how our feet evolved. In this review, anatomical differences between extant ape and human foot bones, and examination of the hominin foot fossil record is discussed.

Bernhard Zipfel is a palaeoanthroplogist with a special interest in the biomechanics and evolution of the human foot, the origins of hominin bipedalism, palaeopathology and the preservation of natural history collections. He became the University Curator of Fossil and Rock Collections at the University of the Witwatersrand in 2007 and was formerly the Head of the Department of Podiatry at the University of Johannesburg (1990 to 2006). He curates all fossil collections housed at the Evolutionary Studies Institute. Bernhard holds qualifications in Podiatric Medicine and Post-School Education from the University of Johannesburg, a BSc (Hons) from the University of Brighton and a PhD from the University of the Witwatersrand, is the past President of the Palaeontological Society of Southern Africa (2012 to 2014) and recently became a Fellow of the South African Podiatry Association. He has published numerous papers in high impact journals, including the hominin discoveries at Malapa and Dinaledi, and a series of papers on foot evolution.

Date: Thursday 07 February 2019
Venue: The Auditorium at Roedean School
Time: 19:30 – 20:30
Cost : Free for members, non-members R30
Contact: Louise Mackechnie Chairperson Archaeological Society of South Africa (Northern Branch) - 082 704 7585 (cell)

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