Archive for October 13, 2011

Harry Belafonte has Aged rather Well

October 13, 2011 5 comments

Did you know that Harry Belafonte is 84 years old? The guy was born in 1927.. yes that is correct- 1927! Just watch this recent interview of him. Does he sound, look or act like an 84 year old?

and here is a recent photograph of him.. not bad for 84. Heck he looks better than many guys in their late 50s!


Categories: Current Affairs

Mismatch between Accepted Technological Levels and Dietary Requirements of Early Hominids

October 13, 2011 7 comments

I have been a doubter since I can remember and this post is about one of the smaller doubts that have troubled me for years.

There is a massive mismatch between the conventionally accepted levels of technology though to be possessed by pre- H.sapiens (modern human) hominids and their build and lifestyles.

OK, let me explain this in some detail..

While australopithecines were bipedal and omnivorous, they were between 1.2 to 1.4 m (3 ft 10 in to 4 ft 7 in) tall and not especially muscular. Given that they lived in a warm place with little shortage of food, their lack of sophisticated hunting tools or clothes is not noteworthy.

But then we start getting hominid species such as H.erectus, H. hiedelbergenis and H. neanderthalensis. Now, unlike australopithecines these species were not restricted to Africa.

You might remember that the earth had cyclic ice ages for the last 6 million-odd years, and the prolonged survival of these hominid species outside Africa imply that they had some ability to hunt or trap larger animals under cooler climatic conditions. Contrast their environmental conditions to the Australopithecines who could easily obtain fruits, nuts, insects, fish, shellfish and birds in East Africa without a lot of tools.

But the real kicker is their body size as all these pre-modern hominids was larger and they were more robustly built than modern humans. While some “scientists” try to suggest otherwise it is rather clear than adult male H.erectus and H. hiedelbergensis routinely exceeded 6 (1.8m) feet and were significantly more muscular than modern humans. Even H. neanderthalensis was much more muscular than your average athletic H.sapiens.

So here is the problem-

How did such species feed themselves over thousands of years given their large body size, musculature and the lack of efficient hunting tools. Remember that they had to hunt and gather 2-3x more food than we eat today (more muscle + more activity) and did not likely possess the ability to preserve any significant quantity of food. The digestive system of humans can handle meat, fruits, some vegetables along with cooked legumes and grains. We cannot handle cellulose or cellulose type substances unlike ruminant animals and horses

Even if we assume that big game animals were far more plentiful than today, you have to be able to kill them first or scavenge dead ones rather quickly. Today hunting is easy because people have rifled guns, but that was not always the case. Even hunting with muzzle-loading smooth bores and bows/ crossbows exposes you the difficulty experienced by hunters of an earlier era.

Is it possible to hunt enough to eat, for years on end, with the very simple tools and methods supposedly used by these hominids even if you had the physique of those hominids and abundance of large game? While some might spin it as evidence that those hominids were vegetarians, a brief look at the history of agriculture tells you that it actually rather hard to be vegetarians to any significant extent unless you have domesticated a dozen or so plant species. Wild versions of our domesticated crops are neither plentiful nor high-yielding.

I can think of a few possible solutions to this problem-

1. Small size game was much more numerous than today or they spear fished a lot.

2. They were very good scavengers who could frighten away big cats and hyenas from a fresh kill.

3. They got most of their kills through trapping and killing than hunting them down.

4. They possessed far better tools and hunting techniques than we currently believe.

Note that all possibilities in 1-4, especially 2-4 require them to possess far more mental sophistication than we ascribe to them. So what do you think?

and before I forget.. How did they live in cold climates without well-fitting warm clothes? Their physiology was not that different from ours.. and their resistance to cold conditions was therefore not vastly better than ours. After all they were hominids, not polar bears or elk.