What’s the difference between us and our ancient Homo heidelbergensis? Well, it’s the brow and the forehead!
Our ancestors had heavy brows and very small foreheads, and if we had those too, it would have rendered all hats useless!
Homo heidelbergensis were on Earth from 700,000 to 200,000 years ago, and they might have been ancestors of Neanderthals, Denisovans and us, the modern humans.
But the striking difference between us in anatomy was our long and smooth eyebrows. Penny Spikins is an evolutionary anthropologist at the University of York, stating that:
“The brow ridge is one of the most distinctive features that mark out the difference between archaic and modern humans.”
We’re Better at Expressing Emotions
Penny Spikins and her colleagues have a new hypothesis they’ve published Monday in Nature Ecology and Evolution. They believe that with our beautiful foreheads and eyebrows, we could express emotions better than the Homo heidelbergensis. And we began being a very social species, so expressing emotions were how we could communicate and survive.
The H. heidelbergensis has been studied after a skull was discovered in 1921, showing a thick brow ridge and a small skull. The face of such an ancestor was stiffer and could easily chew touch meats, having such features.
However, scientists used a 3D computer model of the heidelbergensis skull and started experimenting with the size of the brow ridge. They discovered that, according to Paul O’Higgins, a University of York archeologist and co-author of the paper, the heavy brow had a different use:
“We reduced the brow ridge to the absolute minimum size possible for it to hold the face together. And still it made no difference in how the face was biting.”
So, if there was no mechanical function to the way the skull of a heidelbergensis was ‘built’, then it only meant that it had a social signal too, expressing strength, dominance, and probably a desirable trait in a mate.
Ashley Hammond, a paleoanthropologist at the George Washington University believes that the huge brow is related to high levels of testosterone: ‘The skeleton as a whole is a lot more robust and thicker.’
Spikins said that eyebrows can express a lot of feelings, and they are “a biological mechanism to demonstrate to other people what we’re genuinely feeling,” just like blushing.
Although the study is not set in stone with its discoveries, Spikins wants to point out that human anatomy reflects the need for cooperating and communicating with other humans:
“There’s a growing recognition that being able to get on with other people, showing affiliative emotions, is more important in our evolution than” it was previously recognized, continued Spikins.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.