20 Jan 2017

"Effect of Activities on Bones" -- an excerpt from The Paleolithic Revolution

Stories from the Stone Age fascinate many people. Who were the long-ago humans who made cave paintings and carved ivory? I've often wondered how they turned rocks like flint or obsidian into knives and tools. The things that scientists learn from a scrap of bone, or an old carving, are amazing!

This year I got to put to use all my favourite archaeology facts while writing a book for Rosen Publishing, called The Paleolithic Revolution. It's part of a series called The First Humans and Early Civilizations.

Here's an excerpt from the first chapter, with the heading "Effect of Activities on Bones."

Bones are a lasting record of our lives. During the Paleolithic Revolution, modern humans were strong people. Their bones had much larger muscle attachments than is common today, even for professional athletes.

Their bones were harder, too. Bones from people born today are on average 15 percent weaker than bones from people born during the Upper Paleolithic Era. This is due to two factors. People today are less physically active and use more kinds of tools. Physical strength is less important for survival. People then spent a lot of time walking, gathering food, and hunting. Leading active lives and using simple tools made their muscles and bones strong, just as it does for athletes and construction workers today.

Paleolithic humans used their bodies as tools, putting stress and strain on their bones and joints. As people aged, their joints and backs wore out and became damaged. Bones broke from falls or fights, causing injuries like a rodeo rider would have today. Some breaks healed well, showing signs of good care. People broke their toes because their shoes were simple wraps or soft like moccasins, not rigid-sole boots. Their feet and toes were shaped from wearing sandals or soft skin shoes, instead of splaying wide from going barefoot all the time.

Paleolithic people’s lives affected their teeth, too. From chewing tough food, their jaws grew a little bigger than people today who eat softer food. Bigger jaws meant fewer impacted wisdom teeth than today. Their teeth had fewer cavities than today, too, because they ate fewer grains and other food that sticks to the teeth. But they had other tooth problems instead. Since people used their teeth as pliers and clamps, their teeth got worn down, chipped, and even cracked. People also chewed leather to make it soft. Some old people had teeth worn down to nubs.

No comments: