How the last 12,000 years have shaped humans into what they are today

How the last 12,000 years have shaped humans into what they are today
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Although humans have been evolving for millions of years, the last 12,000 years have been one of the most dynamic and influential periods for the way we live today, according to an anthropologist who created a special journal on the subject. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Ours modern world It all started with the emergence of agriculture, says Clark Spencer Larsen, professor of anthropology at Ohio State University.

“The shift from foraging to farming changed everything,” Larsen said.

Along with food plantshumans also planted the seeds of many of modern society’s most painful problems.

“While the changes brought about by agriculture have brought many benefits to us, they have also led to increased conflict and violence, increased levels of infectious diseases, physical activitymore limited diet and more competition for resources,” he said.

Larsen is the organizer and editor of the Special Feature article published in January. 17, 2023 issue of the magazine Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. He also authored the introduction to the section entitled “The past 12,000 years of behavior, adaptation, population, and evolution have shaped who we are today.”

The special article includes eight articles mainly based on bioarchaeology human remains and what they can tell scientists about changes in diet, behavior, and lifestyle over the past 10,000 years. Larsen co-authored two of these eight articles.

According to him, one of the messages that unites all the articles is that today’s major social problems have ancient roots.

“We didn’t get to where we are today by accident. The problems we have today with war, inequality, disease and malnutrition all stem from changes that happened when agriculture started,” Larsen said.

The shift from foraging to farming caused people who had lived mainly transient lives to establish settlements and lead more sedentary lives.

“It had a profound impact on almost every aspect of our lives then, now and into the future,” he said.

Growing food is allowed world population growing from about 10 million in the later Pleistocene Epoch to more than 8 billion people today.

But it came at a price. The varied diet of foragers was replaced by a more limited diet of domesticated plants and animals, which often reduced the quality of food. Larsen says that most of the world’s population now consumes three staple foods—rice, wheat and corn—especially in areas with limited access to animal protein sources.

Another important change in people’s diet was the addition of dairy products. In an article in the Special Feature, researchers examined tartar found in fossils to show that the earliest evidence of milk consumption dates back to about 5,000 years ago in northern Europe.

“This is evidence that humans are genetically adapted to be able to consume cheese and milk, and this happened very recently. human evolution“It shows how humans have adapted biologically to our new way of life.”

As people began to form agricultural communities, social changes were also taking place. Larsen co-authored a paper analyzing isotopes of strontium and oxygen tooth enamel early farming communities dating back more than 7,000 years to help determine where the inhabitants were from. The results showed that Çatalhöyükin modern Turkey, it was the only one of the few studied communities inhabited by non-natives.

“It laid the foundation for kinship and community organization in the later societies of West Asia,” he said.

These early communities also faced the problem of many people living in relatively small areas, leading to conflict.

In one paper, researchers studying human remains in early farming communities in Western and Central Europe found that approximately 10% died from traumatic injuries.

“Their analysis shows that violence was endemic and increased in Neolithic Europe, resulting in patterns of warfare that resulted in increased death tolls,” Larsen writes in the introduction.

Research has informed about this PNAS This issue also reveals how these early human communities created ideal conditions for another problem that dominates the world today: infectious disease. Livestock farming has led to common zoonotic diseases that can be transmitted from animals to humans, Larsen said.

Although today’s climate change crisis is unique in human history, past societies have had to deal with more short-term climate disasters, especially long droughts.

In a prospective paper co-authored by Larsen, researchers noted that economic inequalityracism and other forms of discrimination have been key factors in how societies behave in these climate emergencies, and these factors will play a role in our current crisis.

Communities with greater inequality are more likely to experience violence after climate disasters, Larsen said.

What may be most surprising about all the changes documented in the Special Feature is how quickly they all happened, he said.

“When you look at six or so million years of human evolution, the transition from foraging to farming and all the effects that has had on us — it’s all happened in the blink of an eye,” Larsen said.

“On the scale of a human lifespan, that may seem like a long time, but it really isn’t.”

The research presented in Special Feature also shows the amazing ability of humans to adapt to their environment.

“As the last 12,000 years have shown, we are pretty resilient creatures,” he said.

“It gives me hope for the future. We will continue to adapt, find ways to face challenges and find ways to succeed. That’s what we do as humans.”

Larsen, Clark Spencer, The past 12,000 years of behavior, adaptation, population, and evolution have shaped who we are today, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (2023). DOI: 10.1073/pnas.2209613120.

Quote: How the Last 12,000 Years Shaped Humans Today (2023, January 16) Retrieved January 17, 2023 from

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