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Big Heads

9 February 2010

http://discovermagazine.com December 28th 2009 … the cranial capacity of Boskop skulls found in South Africa in the early 20th century are the subject of this article (see archives). The brains of these people was apparently more than a quarter the size of modern brains. In addition, it was found Boskop people had small childlike faces – somewhat like ET (and the popular image of aliens). This is known as pedomorphosis, the retention of juvenile features into adulthood, a phenomenon usually associated with rapid evolutionary change. All humans are pedomorphic in comparison with most other primates so this particular factor is not neccessarily unusual aspect. In fact, human faces bear some resemblances to those of juvenile apes so Boskop appearance is somewhat unremarkable as a trait. The history of evolution has been dogged by the idea that the process leads to greater complexity or more advanced forms. Darwin, however, did not accept progress and replaced it by natural selection – random variation. Misconceptions are still common as they are part of the popular myth. Hence, the idea that all humans that evolved before 50,000 years ago must be inferior – lumbering great semi beasts with hairy arms and a bad scent. Evolutionary trees tend to emphasize such an attitude – but Boskops argue otherwise. Humans with big heads and big brains lived in southern Africa in the past and conceivably had much greater potential in the intelligence field, aided and abetted by a large prefrontal cortex = higher cognitive skills. Yet these people died out – at around 10,000BC, at the beginning of the Holocene. Why? 

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