Hominin stature, body mass, and walking speed estimates based on 1.5 million-year-old fossil footprints at Ileret, Kenya

J Hum Evol. 2013 Jun;64(6):556-68. doi: 10.1016/j.jhevol.2013.02.004. Epub 2013 Mar 22.


The early Pleistocene marks a period of major transition in hominin body form, including increases in body mass and stature relative to earlier hominins. However, because complete postcranial fossils with reliable taxonomic attributions are rare, efforts to estimate hominin mass and stature are complicated by the frequent albeit necessary use of isolated, and often fragmentary, skeletal elements. The recent discovery of 1.52 million year old hominin footprints from multiple horizons in Ileret, Kenya, provides new data on the complete foot size of early Pleistocene hominins as well as stride lengths and other characteristics of their gaits. This study reports the results of controlled experiments with habitually unshod Daasanach adults from Ileret to examine the relationships between stride length and speed, and also those between footprint size, body mass, and stature. Based on significant relationships among these variables, we estimate travel speeds ranging between 0.45 m/s and 2.2 m/s from the fossil hominin footprint trails at Ileret. The fossil footprints of seven individuals show evidence of heavy (mean = 50.0 kg; range: 41.5-60.3 kg) and tall individuals (mean = 169.5 cm; range: 152.6-185.8 cm), suggesting that these prints were most likely made by Homo erectus and/or male Paranthropus boisei. The large sizes of these footprints provide strong evidence that hominin body size increased during the early Pleistocene.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Animals
  • Body Size / physiology*
  • Female
  • Foot / anatomy & histology*
  • Foot / physiology
  • Fossils*
  • Gait / physiology*
  • Hominidae / anatomy & histology*
  • Hominidae / physiology
  • Humans
  • Kenya
  • Male
  • Regression Analysis
  • Video Recording