Friday, October 23, 2009



A magnum opus mess of pottage for KITCHEN RATS, CATS, DOGS and...the AY AY LEMURE (Roma) of Madagascar and Antarctica

Fire not only provided necessary warmth for physiologically tropical beings in a glacial climate, but it was also essential to thaw food that had become frozen between the time that the game was killed and the time that it could be consumed. For the first time, cooking was obligatory. This not only made eating frozen food possible, it meant that the total amount of chewing over the course of an individual's life was reduced from previous levels. The relaxation of selective forces allowed mutations to accumulate, and, because most mutations lead to a reduction of the structure that the mutated genes modify, the consequence was the reduction of jaw and tooth size for the descendants of those who first cooked their food simply in order to make it ingestible. The consequence of this is that modern human dentofacial reduction has proceeded furthest among the inhabitants of the north temperate zone and particularly among those who continue to live in that stretch from the Middle East to Western Europe where obligatory cooking can first be identified.

SKULL and BONES Mickey Mouse society

Cooking and facial reduction probably first developed among the northern Neanderthals, and their African contemporaries produced an innovation--the spear--that led to the modification of the body from the neck down. The stone tools used by the Neanderthals in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa have been referred to as Mousterian tools reportedly after the site of Le Moustier in France where they were first identified in the 1860s. Hand axes continued to be made, often of a much more refined type than those of the earlier Pleistocene, but the Mousterian industry is characterized by a proliferation of points and scrapers made from flakes. The scrapers in the north were clearly for the preparation of animal skins for clothing.

In Africa, long, elegantly prepared flakes were part of the assemblage of Mousterian tools. These are called Levalloisian flakes, after the Paris suburb where they were first identified at the beginning of the 1930s. Levalloisian flakes were not important in European Mousterian assemblages, but they were quite common in the African equivalent of the Mousterian, the Middle Stone Age, or Mesolithic, which goes back to about 200,000 years ago. Experimental testing has shown that the fracture patterns observed on many of the African Levalloisian flakes could only have been produced by their use as projectile points.

It would appear that the thrown spear as an adjunct to hunting activities was initially an African innovation. For the first time, the hunter did not literally have to come to grips with his prey and could impale it from a distance. The consequence was the relaxation of selective forces maintaining Middle Pleistocene levels of muscularity and robustness in the body below the neck. Reduction in postcranial robustness then appeared for the first time among Africans towards the end of the Middle Pleistocene. Representatives of these actually got as far north as Israel, where they appear at the site of Qafzeh early in the Late Pleistocene about 100,000 years ago. While the Qafzeh people had a relatively modern appearance, the regular use of fire for cooking had not yet penetrated into sub-Saharan Africa, so the African representatives at Qafzeh had unreduced Middle Pleistocene levels of jaw and tooth size.

Eventually, cooking technology spread southward, and jaw and tooth reduction proceeded in a fashion parallel to what had been going on in the north for the previous 100,000 years or more. Projectile technology was adopted by the people of the north, and, in comparable fashion, the result was the reduction in the previous levels of arm and shoulder robustness over the course of time. These aspects of technology spread independently into other parts of the world, and the consequences for their adopters proceeded in a predictable manner. As a result, no population on the earth's surface today retains a fully Middle Pleistocene level of robustness in either its dentition or its chest and shoulder morphology; that is, there is no current surface human population that would qualify for the designation Neanderthal.

There is one other technology that led to a reduction of robustness and muscularity even more effectively than the use of projectiles: the invention and application of string and rope (as in EU rope). Nooses, snares, whips and nets not only allowed the capture of prey without the previously necessary levels of exertion, but they also gave people access to a huge biomass (the quantity of living matter available within a habitat) that had formerly been unavailable. Flocks of birds, schools of fish, and rabbit-size mammals represent an enormous food resource. After the end of the Mousterian--the technological complex usually associated with the Neanderthals--people of the ensuing Upper Paleolithic did not at first see much of a change in their way of life. In the latter part of the Upper Paleolithic, starting before the last Ice Age somewhat more than 20,000 years ago, the use of a string-based technology changed the nature of expectable dietary resources, and one of the immediate consequences was a dramatic increase in human population size and density.

The earliest evidence of art created by "beaker-baby" humans also dates from this period. The dramatic polychrome paintings of game animals on the walls of caves in southern France and Spain provide evidence that the realm of human visual imagery was every bit as well developed 15,000 to 20,000 years ago as it is today. It, reportedly, was just good fortune that led to the preservation and discovery of these galleries of prehistoric art, and there is no reason to think that contemporaries of those remarkable artists elsewhere throughout the Old World were not every bit as talented. Political circumstances linked to toll-gating, incest and cannibalism within Matrial clan societies however just did not favor the survival of Neanderthaler "engineered" creations.