July 26, 2011

The Role Of Grandparents In Ancient Civilization

The role of grandparents in helping to nurture children dates back some 30,000 years, when the life expectancy of the human population began to increase significantly, a team of American anthropologists claim in a new study.

In fact, according to David Derbyshire of the Daily Mail, as the number of people reaching advanced age began to rise, the researchers discovered that the "older generation" could have "played a key role in the evolution of mankind."

"With older people able to look after children, pass on knowledge and share in food gathering, our ancestors were able to spread around the world and develop farming, tools and civilization," Derbyshire wrote. "The theory comes from American anthropologists who charted the life expectancy of our prehistoric ancestors by studying the wear and tear of fossilized teeth."

Furthermore, those experts, including Central Michigan University Professor Rachel Caspari, said that as the number of adults reaching the age of 30 increased, artwork started to become more sophisticated, food became easier to produce, and tools and weapons started becoming more complex.

The fact is, as fewer of our ancestors started succumbing earlier to illness, famine, or other ailments, Observer Science Editor Robin McKie, says, "The surge in numbers of elderly humans triggered a cultural explosion that established our species as masters of the planet."

Caspari, writing in the latest issue of Scientific American, "Living to an older age had profound effects on the population sizes, social interactions and genetics of early modern human groups and may explain why they were more successful than other archaic humans, such as the Neanderthals."

Telegraph Environment Correspondent Louise Gray also pointed out that studies conducted by the London Natural History Museum showed that grandparents shared vital information with the generation that followed them.

"Professor Chris Stringer, author of The Origin of Our Species, said elders pass on knowledge of poisonous food, the location of water supplies and important skills such as toolmaking," Gray wrote in an article Sunday. "Most importantly they know the distant relationships with other tribes so it is easier to negotiate rules around access to water holes or to land rich in game."

According to McKie, Caspari and Sang-Hee Lee of the University of California studied fossils from various periods of human evolution, including teeth from early australopithecine apemen, Neanderthals and the first Homo sapiens to reach Europe. Thirty-plus year olds remained fairly rare as humans evolved, with the largest boom coming in Homo sapiens, roughly 40,000 years ago.


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