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The Paleo Diet For Australopithecines: Approaching The Meat Of The Matter (Big Brains Require An Explanation, Part IV)
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February 29, 2012
4:38 am
First-Eater
Forum Posts: 2105
Member Since:
February 22, 2010
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In Part III, we established the following:

  • Bipedalism among human ancestors is associated with a dietary shift away from soft, sugar-rich fruit, and toward hard, fibrous, ground-based foods like nuts, root vegetables, insects, and mushrooms. (And perhaps some meat, though the evidence is inferential.)
  • Both bipedalism and this dietary shift occurred while our ancestors were still forest-dwellers—before we moved into savanna and grassland habitats.
  • Both bipedalism and this dietary shift preceded the massive increase in our ancestors' brain size.
  • Therefore, neither fruit, nor potatoes, nor walking upright made us human.

Once again, I am giving what I believe to be the current consensus interpretation of…

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February 29, 2012
5:25 am
Tiago
Guest

J. Stanton,

I find this series really interesting. I have a personal interest on the isotopic evidence for meat consumption in the paleolithic, but I think you already intend to comment on that in the future posts...

I have some references on that, if you want some you can mail me.

Keep up the good work...

Tiago.

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February 29, 2012
5:50 am
eddie watts
Guest

brilliant write up J Stanton, concise and logical.

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February 29, 2012
6:23 am
Octavian @ Full Fat
Guest

I've been eagerly awaiting the next instalment, and it has left me wanting even more. Great write-up.

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February 29, 2012
6:43 am
Vizeet
Guest

This is very interesting series for me and I eagerly wait for new posts.

I wondering how did A. afarensis females deliver babies with bigger skull.

All humans deliver premature babies compared to chimpanzees or gorillas, I want to understand when did this evolution happened. It happened in A. afarensis or Homo Erectus or Homo Sapiens.

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February 29, 2012
7:03 am
Wayne D Johnson
Guest

Enjoying it immensely!

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February 29, 2012
8:12 am
Mary
Guest

This is awesome. One of the few times I see that elusive beast ... "science". I love it.

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February 29, 2012
10:04 am
Bodhi
Guest

Love the series, keep it rolling.

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February 29, 2012
10:17 am
tess
Guest

i'm enjoying it, and finding it very interesting, too -- much further back in history than i've ever studied! :-)

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February 29, 2012
2:11 pm
Jackie
Guest

Love it! Glad you are back; I've missed your superb research and great writing!

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February 29, 2012
4:18 pm
Bodhi
Guest

What kinds of nuts and roots were they eating?

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February 29, 2012
6:43 pm
mark
Guest

JS, great writing! i hope i speak for everyone when i say, i'm not even quite positive what abstruse means, but i'm pretty sure i enjoy all of the information dense articles much the same as i enjoy my nutrient dense foods
keep it comin', please

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February 29, 2012
6:43 pm
Nance
Guest

Lovin' it! The more parts the better. It makes great sense that even if kids learned by watching that you grab a sharp stone, it would be a huge next step to purposefully make your own sharp stones especially since it wouldn't be a one- or two-step process.

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February 29, 2012
8:08 pm
TerryFi
Guest

I'm having a great time with this. I have an undergrad degree in anthro. So it complements what I've studied in this area. Thanks.

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March 1, 2012
12:04 am
pam
Guest

simply brilliant.kudo

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March 1, 2012
12:15 am
Vizeet
Guest

young chimps apparently don’t understand the fundamental concept that “when I point my finger, I want you to pay attention to what I’m pointing at, not to me.

I have a small one year old baby and I feel astonished how quickly she understands new words. In nine months she understood what pointing finger means. Human babies learn quickly still females reach puberty much later then chimps. Seems human females required longer time to learn to take care of babies compared to chimps (Because babies are born premature). Neanderthals reached maturity earlier then humans may be this shows they were also learning faster then humans.

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March 1, 2012
12:17 am
Vizeet
Guest

This also could mean Neanderthal babies required less care.

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March 1, 2012
1:49 am
First-Eater
Forum Posts: 2105
Member Since:
February 22, 2010
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Tiago:

Email sent.

eddie, Octavian:

Thank you for the support.  These articles aren't sparking a lot of discussion, so it's good to know that my readers appreciate reading them.

Vizeet:

That's an excellent question.  I don't think we know their size at birth: fossil evidence is so thin that we're lucky to have any idea what the adults looked like!  Entire species are implied from jawbones, a few teeth, and part of a humerus (A. anamensis), which leaves a hole in the brain-size data since we have no cranial remains.

Wayne:

You're welcome.

Mary:

I'm glad you appreciate the science, because it's hard work!  I love the process of learning and teaching, but I understand why pot-stirring is so much more popular: it's easier by far. 

(Note to all: the best way to say "thank you" is to buy a copy of The Gnoll Credo or a T-shirt.)

Bodhi:

Glad you're back!  I hope you're well.

We don't know exactly which of nuts and tubers they were eating, because that sort of evidence doesn't fossilize…but palynological evidence (pollen) can at least tell us the type of biome they lived in and what sorts of plants were in it.  Then, dental and cranial analysis tells us what sort of foods they were adapted to eat, and dental wear analysis can sometimes tell us more about the dietary mix they actually ate.

tess:

Most history books start with "The Great Leap Forward", i.e. the Neolithic Revolution — as if nothing at all happened previous to agriculture.  The reality, of course, is that everything happened…

…we became human!

Jackie:

Much appreciated.

mark:

"Meat For The Mind" is now a trademark of J. Stanton :)

Nance:

Yes.  The mental process of imitation is very different than the mental process of discovery.

Terry:

Wonderful!  Please fact-check me, and suggest possible improvements if you see any.

pam:

Thanks for the kudo!  It was lonely at first, but then I got a couple more so they're all happy.

Vizeet:

Young chimps are better at problem-solving than young children, but they're not as good at learning by imitation.

There's so much fascinating speculation to be done about Neandertals…I'm sure one will be cloned up at some point.

 

Thanks, everyone, for your votes of confidence!  I'm glad you're willing to follow along with this deep and technical anthropology.  Paleo has progressed dramatically over the past two years, so in order to discover new knowledge, we must work harder than before.

JS

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March 1, 2012
7:50 am
Samantha Moore
Guest

Enjoy. Thanks very much!

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March 1, 2012
10:39 am
Uncephalized
Guest

You're really cranking these out lately, JS. fascinating food for thought and certainly a possible way to fill in some of the blanks left in the standard story.

One possibility I often see largely ignored is the effect of swamp land on bipedality. Particularly, the need to carry babies while crossing water too deep to wade quadripedally. Do you know how much of the terrain during these periods might have been wetlands?

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