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Ancient Mysteries

Switching to farming made our bones lighter

December 27, 2014 | Comment icon 3 comments

Agriculture had an impact on physical activity levels. Image Credit: sxc.hu
Our species developed more fragile bones when our ancestors switched from hunting to agriculture.
This fundamental shift in our bone-joint density occurred around 12,000 years ago at the beginning of the Holocene epoch.

The findings were detailed in two papers published this week exploring the idea that changes in our physical activity levels were primarily responsible for our bones becoming weaker.

The shift from hunting to farming is thought to be the main catalyst that brought about this change.
"Modern human skeletons have shifted quite recently towards lighter - more fragile, if you like - bodies," said anthropologist and study co-author Habiba Chirchir. "It started when we adopted agriculture. Our diets changed. Our levels of activity changed."

Scientists had long known that modern humans possess much weaker and thinner skeletons than our ancestors but it hadn't been clear exactly why this was the case.

"What we think is going on is that humans were becoming less active, more sedentary," said Chirchir. "People were adopting farming, domesticating animals. That reduction in physical activity is what’s resulted in this light skeleton."

Source: Smithsonian Magazine | Comments (3)

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #1 Posted by Red Moon 7 years ago
Genetic defects, diseases, inbreeding and illnesses also contributes to a weaker bone structure.
Comment icon #2 Posted by bubblykiss 7 years ago
So my cotton-pickin' ancestors were not as tough as my badger bashin' ones? I can't wait to see what Cheetos do to humanity in 159 years.
Comment icon #3 Posted by clare256 7 years ago
Sounds somewhat Lamarkian to me. Seems like there should be more to it than simply exercise and diet. I suppose diet could change the development of a fetus' bones....

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