Thursday, March 16, 2006


So I was in that class I'm taking to finish up my Anthropology degree and we were talking about all the different pre-homo sapien "prototypes" and why changes might have occured and when and how we, as homo sapien sapiens are different. Then we started a discussion about changes from ancient homo sapiens (ie ancient modern humans) to us. In the last 100,000 years of our existence we're still changing ever so slightly. Apparently our heads have gotten a bit smaller (due to the difficulty of birthing, basically fitting our huge brains through the smaller hips we've had to develop in order to stand up straight), our arches have gotten higher (to center us better over our upright position), and we're losing teeth (yep, kids are coming out without wisdom teeth, even the root of wisdom teeth, more and more frequently these days). They say it's a result of a smaller mouth to fit in our ever-flatter faces. The most interesting change, though, is height. No, we haven't actually gotten taller, we've gotten shorter than our hunter-gatherer ancestors. About 10,000 years ago we started farming, and believe it or not that diet was actually poorer and more labor intensive than the hunter-gatherer lifestyle. The lack of nutrition actually stunted our growth by a good 5 inches on average. It basically boils down to too many cultivated grains and not enough of any other variety of food. But we are getting taller these days. The theory is that because of trade and the modern grocery store, and the move away from agriculture we're getting a wider variety of foods, which means better nutrition, which means taller people. So basically the grocery store makes us the modern equivalent of our hunter-gatherer ancestors.


SJ said...

Doesn't anyone have anything to say about evolution?

Steve said...

Uhm, evolution is good?

I think we are all taller, and larger breasted for those of you playing along at home, due to the large amounts of hormones and steroids we injest on a daily basis from dairy and meat products. I credit my 74 inches with my glass of milk before bed everynight while I was growing up.

SJ said...

Not quite the response I thought this would spark but...I guess it works.

Yes, we are taller than several generations ago, but when humans first started agriculture some 10,000 years ago we actually dropped in height by 5 inches, had cavaties, and more mal-nutrition related diseases. That's because we stopped getting the variety of food our ancestors did. Quantity was king over quality in those days...and in many respects still is, but we have risen in height in recent generations thanks to the modern grocery store that provides us with more variety, and a better understanding and availability of nutrition.