Washington, Feb 28 (ANI): Our ancestors used brain power, innovation and teamwork to dominate the planet, scholars in the US discussing how the humans colonized the globe suggested.
Why humans rose to the top the world and eventually came to rule it has been a matter curiosity for scientists.
The study of our human nature includes a variety of fields ranging from anthropology, primatology, cognitive science and psychology to paleontology, archaeology, evolutionary biology and genetics.
Representatives of each of these disciplines came together on February 19-22 at a workshop, "Origins of Human Uniqueness and Behavioral Modernity," staged by Arizona State University's Origins Project to discuss recent advances in their respective fields.
Led by ASU professors anthropologist Kim Hill and paleoanthropologist Curtis Marean, co-organizers of the event, the panel of scientists agreed to adopt a working definition that human uniqueness is the "underlying capacity to produce complexity," and to think of behavioural modernity as "the expression" of those capacities.
According to Hill and Marean, the expression of capacities can be summed up, namely, as exceptional cognition, culture and cooperation. Each of the three C's was a topic of focus for the scientists. One of their goals at the conference was to identify specific markers of these expressions, and then use them to identify the emergence of humans within the paleoanthropological record.
Archaeologist and paleoanthropologist John Shea of Stony Brook University said the beginning of human cognition, for instance, is the result of the development of a larger brain, which can be represented by artefacts such as stone tools, weapons or productions that signify greater abilities for thinking and innovation, Jean-Jacques Hublin of the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Germany said although the adaptation of a larger brain may separate humans from their primate relatives, it also came at a cost of increased fuel requirements. A human brain uses at least 20 percent of an individual's resting metabolism, he pointed out.
Primatologist and biological anthropologist Richard Wrangham of Harvard University said evidence of the use of fire by early humans could be used to mark how they overcame their energy needs, Heat helps free up energy by softening foods, denaturing their proteins and breaking down toxins, Wrangham proposed, which is why cooking may explain human brain size as well as small canine teeth and small guts in comparison to other primates.
Evidence of coastal adaptation can also mark human activity and a strategy for meeting the brain's growing energy needs. Archaeological excavations along the coastline of South Africa show that early humans obtained energy-dense foods by adopting a diet of shellfish, which afforded strong nutritional benefits for the brain, Marean suggested.
The researchers also discussed how a bigger brain led to culture, a product of thinking and social learning facilitated by language, creativity and innovation. The passing on of knowledge from generation to generation is metaphorically referred to as a cultural "ratchet effect," which creates greater complexity of culture over time.
Evolutionary theorist Rob Boyd of University of California, Los Angeles, suggested that a lone human would not be able to survive without culture in the wild. He said: "Think about what is necessary to live in Alaska.
"You'd need a kayak, a harpoon, a float to not sink. Nobody invents a kayak. People learn the proper way to make a kayak from others." (ANI)