Thursday, March 20, 2014

astro picture for the day/Evolution of Human thought for the day

Image Credit & Copyright: Fred Vanderhaven

The April, 2014 issue of Scientific American has an article about Human evolution that summarizes some of the major discoveries in physical anthropology over the last few years.  These discoveries seem to me to make an arguement for how we went from another animal to being able to think about the universe.  I'm sure brain and genetics discoveries await, and more fossils and insights abound.  Well,  I still find this article to bridge the gaps.

The puzzle has always been, "how did we survive in a land with much more athletic cats, animal(and Australopithacus) killing/eating eagles?" One insight I recall and included in this Scientific American article was running.  Sure, we still could never compete with any four legged animal  . . . in short range; but, over long distances, even the mightiest and fastest predators would get tired.  And this only with in a mile or so, most of these stronger faster animals would get gased.  Of course, how could we get these athletic beasts to run away from us?  We could throw heavy stones(Homo Erecuts at least was probably stronger than you'd think, and stronger than most humans grow up today), and gang up on them. Endurance running appears to have evolved along our line two million years ago.

Because of this running, we developed sweat glans - a cooling mechanism.  This evolved about 1.6 million years ago. Around this time, we started to loose our fur.  We'd soon need to cover up every now and then with clothes.

Another insight over the last couple of years ago is our ability to throw.  Studies of anatomy that allows us to throw so much better than say chimpanzees shows we developed this ability around the time of the Australopithacines. The ability to throw made it harder for us to be good at climbing trees.  They made decisions to evolve in different ways; it was almost impossible for our species to turn back technologically almost two million years ago.

The shift to a meat diet from being able to hunt down a source of food not previously available to them meant less deprived diet, and the brain was able to grow more than ever before. From two million years to two hundred thousand years, the brain went from 600 cubic centimets to 1,300 cubic centimeters.

Homo Erectus may have also developed a division of labor long before the coming agricultural revolution(generally speaking, a division of labor is noted as a feature of the agricultural revolution). Males generally went and hunted, while females foraged and cooked and maybe did much more, like government.  This female leadership may have lasted all the way down to the famous Venus figurines found all over Europe of pre-Egypt/Mesopotamian cultures.  Cultures like Stonehence and the Malta ruins builders.

-  I'd like to note another insight not mentioned in the article.  Chimpanzies don't know how to swim. When a fellow chimpanzee falls into a water too deep to stand up in, the others are helpless and just watch the guy go straight down to the bottom and drown.  Humans learned how to swin hundreds of thousands of years ago. There's some evidence of boats back in Homo Erectus days.

This is Turkana boy, one of the most complete skeletal fossils ever discovered.  It goes back to 1.6 million years. 

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