Big Heads and Bipedalism
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Big Heads and Bipedalism

Homo sapiens are the products of millions of years of evolution and our immediate circumstances. So how did bipedalism and big heads affect them?

Culture according to Homo sapiens is learned behavior, transmitted from person to person. As humans, culture is a universal and includes strategies for dealing with the natural environment-we can't live without it. Anthropologists often agree, culture has no genetic or biological basis. However, there is a mutual interactive evolution of human biology and culture. Therefore, Homo sapiens are the products of millions of years of evolution and our immediate circumstances. 

Bipedalism and Homo Sapiens

Homo sapiens (bipeds) could now travel farther distances, albeit not as fast at quadrupeds, in search of food and water. Resources could be carried to safe locations for consumption and children could be carried in the arms, as opposed to hanging on to the back.

In fact, Homo sapiens were well versed in Geography. They walked through the desert in search of food or from place to place, as opposed to Homo Neanderthals who stayed in their caves remaining settled, helping them better adapt and thrive to new environments. Many early Homo sapien sites have be found on mountains and hilltops in Europe, suggesting a subtle advantage of bipedalism.

Why were these men able to climb to higher sites and why didn’t Neanderthals follow? In actuality, this ability or capability proved advantageous, as they could survey all sites below them and plan hunting strategies. This was the beginning of big heads and bigger brains, as complex thinking was now taking place. How is this important to the Homo sapiens culture? This ability to out think and outplay the competition, allowed Homo sapiens to be naturally selected for survival.

Tools Suggesting Complex Thought and Bigger Brains


New tools were fashioned with two hands and were used for protection from adversaries. So how can we explain the evolution of these new tools and the ability to use them?

Tools are a form of technology, therefore, sophisticated tools (such as stone), have been proven to be the material remains of encephalization. In order for there to be “big heads”, there must have been a directional shift to the extreme. Meaning bigger heads to compensate for bigger brains. The brain itself is indirect in the evolution of culture; however the head had to be larger because particular regions of the cerebrum had an overall increase. For the brain to increase in size, it must have been exposed to a neurological rewiring, preparing it to process complex information, including that of a cultural essence.

How do these big heads affect our culture today

From the beginning, a mother during natural child birth will experience extreme pain. The size of the infant’s head and the complications it presents creates a culturally accepted idea of natural childbirth. Once the child is born, it’s instantly in a state of unknowing. They must experience the environment as it shapes and molds them after they are born. As they grow up, they will acquire skills to understand the environment working for and against them. If they become mothers, they will start the cycle of unknowing once again, as they bear the pain of a big head.

Read more articles about archaeology and anthropology by Lauren Axelrod

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Natural Selection: Not The Survival of the Fittest

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Comments (7)
Ranked #11 in Archaeology

Great write about the "Big Heads."

Excellent discussion of biology and its cultural meanings.

Really interesting article, our ancestors are still a great mystery but they were great weren't they!

I saw a programme on TV not long ago that suggested rather poignantly that it could be that our 'larger braincases' were a direct result of a random mutation that reduced the size/strength of the muscle that attaches the jawbone to the skull! The muscle was so strong that is pulls the skull and kept it 'smaller' (like headbinding) but this mutation of a weaker, smaller jaw/jaw-muscle combination allowed the braincase to expand, and the brain matter as a result 'had room to grow.' This favored invention (tools, memories etc. which favors an individual to live longer, reproduce oftener, etc.) and of course, offspring shared this trait and features, and 'larger and larger braincases' occurred just ahead 'smarter and larger brains.' In short, it was not 'larger brains make for larger heads' but exactly the opposite: a larger braincase/skull made room for a larger brain! :-o

Excellent, as always Lauren! Thanks.

I've read somewhere that larger braincases need not mean smarter individuals. It's the convolutions inside the brain that matters. The more convolutions, smarter a person gets.

Interesting topic to let us get back to our origins.