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Keywords:

  • evolution;
  • hominid;
  • vertebral spine

Abstract

The morphology of the lumbar spine is crucial for upright posture and bipedal walking in hominids. The excellent preservation of the lumbar spine of Kebara 2 provides us a rare opportunity to observe a complete spine and explore its functionally relevant morphology. The lumbar spine of Kebara 2 is analyzed and compared with the lumbar spines of modern humans and late Pleistocene hominids. Although no size differences between the vertebral bodies and pedicles of Kebara 2 and modern humans are found, significant differences in the size and orientation of the transverse processes (L1-L4), and the laminae (L5, S1) are demonstrated. The similarity in the size of the vertebral bodies and pedicles of Kebara 2 and modern humans suggests similarity in axial load transmission along the lumbar spine. The laterally projected (L2-L4) and the cranially oriented (L1, L3) transverse processes of Kebara 2 show an advantage for lateral flexion of the lumbar spine compared with modern humans. The characteristic morphology of the lumbar spine of Kebara 2 might be related to the wide span of its pelvic bones. Am J Phys Anthropol 142:549–557, 2010. © 2010 Wiley-Liss, Inc.