We’re All Getting Smaller and Our Brains Are Shrinking . . . Is Farming to Blame?

Fiona Macrae, Daily Mail (London), June 13, 2011

Having conquered Everest and landed on the Moon, it is tempting to think we are bigger and better than our ancestors.

But on a purely physical basis, it seems, we just don’t measure up. Mankind is actually shrinking.

Cambridge University experts say humans are past their peak and that modern-day people are 10 per cent smaller and shorter than their hunter-gatherer ancestors.

And if that’s not depressing enough, our brains are also smaller.

The findings reverse perceived wisdom that humans have grown taller and larger, a belief which has grown from data on more recent physical development.

The decline, say scientists, has happened over the past 10,000 years. They blame agriculture, with restricted diets and urbanisation compromising health and leading to the spread of disease.

The theory has emerged from studies of fossilised human remains found in Africa, Europe and Asia.

The earliest, from Ethiopia, date back 200,000 years, and were larger and ‘more robust’ than their modern-day counterparts, said Dr Marta Lahr, an expert in human evolution.

Fossils found in Israeli caves and dating from 120,000 to 100,000 years ago, reveal a people who were tall and muscular, a pattern that continued uninterrupted until relatively recent times.

An average person 10,000 years ago weighed between 12st 8lb and 13st 6lb. Today, the average is between 11st and 12st 8lb. Dr Lahr, who last week presented her findings to the Royal Society, Britain’s most prestigious scientific body, described the changes as ‘striking’.

‘We can see that humans have continually evolved but in body size it is not until the last 10,000 years that they have changed substantially, so the question is why this should have happened.’

The timing points to the switch from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture, which began 9,000 years ago. While farming would have made food plentiful, focusing on a smaller number of foodstuffs could have caused vitamin and mineral deficiencies that stunted growth.

In China, early farmers relied on cereals such as buckwheat, rice and maize, all of which lack niacin, a B vitamin vital for growth.

However, the rise of agriculture does not explain why brains are also shrinking.

The male brain of 20,000 years ago measured 1,500 cubic centimetres. Modern man’s brain averages just 1,350 cubic cm–a decrease equivalent to the size of a tennis ball. The female brain has shrunk by about the same proportion.

It doesn’t mean we are less intelligent–rather we have learnt to make the best use of our resources.

Dr Lahr said: ‘Over evolutionary time there would have been huge energy savings in making the brain smaller but more efficient–as we see today with computer processors.’

Robert Foley, a Cambridge University professor of human evolution, said: ‘Becoming human, in an evolutionary sense, is a continuous and gradual process. Our species, rather than being a fixed entity, is more like a piece of putty, changing shape and dimensions all the time.’

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  • Anonymous

    Could be true. I once read something about England. The study claimed that between 800 and 1200 English people got significantly smaller because they changed from hunters with gardens to farmed grain and vegetables.

    Want to be tall and slim? Atkins diet rules.

  • Sonya

    The timing points to the switch from a hunter-gatherer lifestyle to agriculture, which began 9,000 years ago. While farming would have made food plentiful, focusing on a smaller number of foodstuffs could have caused vitamin and mineral deficiencies that stunted growth.

    Well natural selection no doubt also played a part in smaller body mass. For hunters going after fair size game a larger body mass is an advantage, no doubt human males also were more prone to fighting over resources (ie food and females) at that time too. Larger males would have an advantage in winning those resources.

    Along comes agriculture and body mass doesn’t mean as much, one can provide ample food for females/offspring even if they aren’t the biggest guy around. Brute force is still important but the those males capable of providing a stable food supply would still do as well, or even better than their larger counterparts.

  • BO_Bill

    Once we were shown a New England fixer-upper house that was built in the 1700s. I’m taller than average, but nothing special, and clearly remember that those old doorways were too short to pass through without ducking.

    With regard to brains, here is data from a public school district in a report titled ‘SAT scores decrease overall in DPS, state and nation, but up in 3 major ethnicities’:

    http://goo.gl/ciust

    Black Scores: 858 up from 850

    Hispanic Scores: 985 up from 979

    White Scores: 1120 up from 1115

    It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why the average SAT score is going down while all the sub-groups are going up. It takes a little more imagination to figure out why our nation’s leaders would seek to make the population dumber.

  • French analyst

    [The earliest, from Ethiopia, date back 200,000 years, and were larger and ‘more robust’ than their modern-day counterparts, said Dr Marta Lahr, an expert in human evolution.]

    We can not know the brain volume of this Ethiopian.

    [Modern man’s brain averages just 1,350 cubic cm—a decrease equivalent to the size of a tennis ball. ]

    Alternatively, the human of 20,000 years ago could have had a mean IQ of 120. Anybody below 100 at that time would have not been able to support a family and to reproduce.

    [However, the rise of agriculture does not explain why brains are also shrinking.]

    It could. Less intelligent people are now able to survive and to reproduce.

    [It doesn’t mean we are less intelligent—rather we have learnt to make the best use of our resources.]

    It could actually mean that people above 135 were gradually able to invent and to design a society in which people under 80 can survive and can reproduce. People over 135 are “our resources”.

    Only fools can think that miscegenation will not drastically decrease their numbers.

  • Robert Binion

    Sexual selection for gracile form could be at play here, too. Would you rather spend the night with Kim Novak or Kate Smith? (I use dated examples to avoid caddishness here.)

  • Scott Wilson

    I was just reading a news article yesterday describing how domestic animals have smaller brains (in proportion to their bodies) than their wild cousins.

    Perhaps humans are not exempt from this effect…

  • Istvan

    1) Everything I have ever read from an evolutionary point of view is that people were smaller in prehistoric times. The people who came out of Africa were shorter and of a slighter build. Except Neantherthals who were shorter but bigger boned. This seems bogus.

    2) If our brains are smaller then perhaps it is because our brains have become more efficient. Remember, our brain is the most energy intensive organ in the body.

    3) Or perhaps as they average in greater numbers of Orientals and Amerindians it appears we are getting smaller.

  • Jim

    Not too surprising, reduced meat and lower fat consumption, both required for brain and body growth have been dropping. Eat more meat and drink whole milk.

  • ciccio

    This article is absolute rubbish. A 19th century bed is quite a few inches shorter than a modern one. Just look at 12th centurty suits of armour, the biggest is about 5’6”. Whilst it is true that some modern brains are shrinking, this is strictly confined to left-wing academics.

  • James

    This whole study seems a bit flawed to me. There are far too many variables involved to difinitively draw any real conclusions. Whom exactly is “our” in the study? Extrapolating data across a whole population based on ancient human remains seems a rather dubious venture to me. I’m 6’3 with a head that would dwarf Conan O’Brien’s, so I haven’t been affected yet thankfully. At least if this is true, guys like me will be able to find hats that fit.

  • aj

    Hmm intersting but I am not sure why this article is on Amren. I imagine that the typical Ethiopian or Somalian is probably larger than the typical Chinese person but probably less intelligent. A blue whale probably has a brain the size of an automobile but is not necessarily a genius.

  • Lauren

    Nice ‘save’ at the end, reminding us that bigger Brains aren’t necessarily smarter. Otherwise the article would not have been PC.

    But you know, Americans used to be the tallest and smartest people on the Planet, until immigration brought in people who were shorter and less brilliant. A major battering ram against resistance to this disadvantageous immigration was IDEOLOGY.

    I suspect that the elimination of the biggest and brightest Humans has been aided, over the millennia, by Ideology. Religions and philosophies provide rallying points for people to rebel against (and destroy) their betters. Communism would be one example.

    Another factor is competition for space. When Humans were sparse, groups could avoid each other, and were too far apart for one group to develop envy of another. But, as population density increased, forcing groups to cohabit areas, I can imagine small, stupid tribes viewing the big, smart tribes with envy. Eventually, as has recently been discovered at an ancient Native American site(where an apparently affluent group was ‘genocided’ by a poorer one), those who were doing less well may have tended to massacre and exterminate those who were more successful.

    That certainly seems to be happening today. Look what is happening to the kindly, intelligent, Dutch people (currently the tallest people in the World). And to the Danes. And to the Swedes. And to….US. Today, the ideologies of Equality and Diversity are major weapons for the inferiors who would destroy their betters.

    It is possible that the RISE OF IDEOLOGY, rather than the emergence of Farming, was the turning point in Human Evolution.

  • A. Windaus

    As mentioned in this month’s American Renaissance magazine the average brain size of a domesticated animal is smaller than the wild variety of that animal, the author claims this is because life is easier because a domesticated animal doesn’t have to hunt for its food. This too was noted in the 40-year domestication program for the Silver Fox last century, the average brain size got smaller the more domesticated it became, even though it showed more behavioural attributes than the wild variety.

  • John Engelman

    For most humans the development of agriculture and urban civilization were not advances, but necessities forced by the scarcity that happened when population outgrew food supply.

    More people lead to less food per person. This lead to improved techniques in hunting or farming. This lead to more people, and eventually less food.

    Population growth has always been a problem. We should not expect technological advances to save us, or at least not all of us. Today computer technology reduces the economic value of low skilled work, while making it possible for employers to move even skilled jobs to countries with low wage levels.

  • SunnyvaleSal

    Doesn’t mean much unless there are controls for race. For example, Californians are certainly getting smaller. Most areas used to be 90% or more White, now many areas are 30% White or less. The replacements are Asians and Latinos who are on average smaller. Are members of a given racial group getting smaller? The article doesn’t address this at all. (No shock there.)

  • Preston Wiginton

    What is it that gave those with 135 IQ the desire to feed those with 80 IQ? Christian mercy has been the greatest downfall the the white man. Let nature run its course and all will be OK.

    With 2000 years of mercy, and really globally only in the last 100 years, the next population control mother nature throws at us will be very devastating. World population has increased almost 5 billion since 1900. I wonder how history will look at the population increase and the oncoming sudden decline.

  • Anonymous

    5 — Preston Wiginton wrote at 7:11 AM on June 17:

    What is it that gave those with 135 IQ the desire to feed those with 80 IQ? Christian mercy has been the greatest downfall the the white man. Let nature run its course and all will be OK.

    ————————-

    Yes.

    The infiltrated “revised” Christianity we have seen for the last couple of hundred or more years. Christianity used to be called the White Mans Religion for a REASON. Our peoples fought wars in the distant past FOR our own racial survival and for that White Mans Religion. Not any longer. They are all about “converting” nonwhites of the world, peace and love, forgiveness, interracial marriages/adoptions, in other words, they are following satan and his minions on earth.

  • Anonymous

    10 — Anonymous wrote at 10:28 AM on June 17:

    5 — Preston Wiginton wrote at 7:11 AM on June 17:

    What is it that gave those with 135 IQ the desire to feed those with 80 IQ? Christian mercy has been the greatest downfall the the white man. Let nature run its course and all will be OK.

    ————————————-

    Yes.

    The infiltrated “revised” Christianity we have seen for the last couple of hundred or more years. Christianity used to be called the White Mans Religion for a REASON. Our peoples fought wars in the distant past FOR our own racial survival and for that White Mans Religion. Not any longer. They are all about “converting” nonwhites of the world, peace and love, forgiveness, interracial marriages/adoptions, in other words, they are following satan and his minions on earth.

    _______________________________

    History does have a way of repeating itself. And that’s a pretty bad omen for what’s about to happen to the Whites in this country.

    It’s clear to me that True Christianity is about Truth, not belief. The original New Testament text was in Greek, with the word Pistis (trust/truth) used quite a bit. When it was translated into Latin, the word fides was used in its place (trust, confidence, belief). when it was again translated into English, the word “Truth” has been taken out in many places and replaced with “faith”.

    People who place their blind faith in a book that has been so mistranslated will end up just like the Nephites, the Aztecs, the Heaven’s Gate cult, the Charles Manson gang, etc etc. When blind faith is substituted for reason, it’s best to have been indoctrinated by someone who was being Truthful. Sadly, that rarely seems to be the case. And it certainly is not with those who fail to see that Christianity is supposed to be about pursuing Truth, not accepting everything you are told without questioning any of it.

    And the Truth is that if you, a good man, allow your enemy to do what he wants, he will destroy you, kill your children, and take everything that you once had.

    Blind faith is never an indicator of someone who is going to prosper, or even survive for long. And there are way too many blind faith believers of the badly mistranslated Bible. There’s a lot of Truth left in it, but those who demand that we accept every word as coming straight from God will never see it, nor can they be reasoned with.

  • Anonymous

    Its been suggested that the pieces of suits of armor were worn further spread apart from each other on the body than displayed in museums.

  • Anonymous

    As usual, they get a lot of the details wrong and misphrase others…

    >

    All people today are classified as Homo sapiens.

    They first began to appear nearly 200,000 years ago in association with technologies not unlike those of the early Neanderthals. It is now clear that they did not come after the Neanderthals but were their contemporaries. However, it is likely that both modern humans and Neanderthals descended from Homo heidelbergensis.

    Compared to the Neanderthals and other late archaic humans, modern humans generally have more delicate skeletons. Their skulls are more rounded and their brow ridges generally protrude much less. They rarely have the occipital buns found on the back of Neanderthal skulls. They also have relatively high foreheads and pointed chins.

    The first fossils of early modern humans to be identified were found in 1868 in a 27,000-23,000 year old rock shelter site near the village of Les Eyzies in southwestern France. They were subsequently named the Cro-Magnon people. They were very similar in appearance to modern Europeans. Males were 5 feet 4 inches to 6 feet tall (1.6-1.8 m.) That was 4-12 inches (10-31 cm.) taller than Neandertals. Their skeletons and musculature generally were less massive than the Neandertals. The Cro-Magnon had broad, small faces with pointed chins and high foreheads. Their cranial capacities were up to _1590 cm3_, which is relatively large even for people today.

    >

    http://goo.gl/3YiV

    >

    Origins of Modern Humans

    Current data suggest that modern humans evolved from archaic humans primarily in East Africa. A 195,000 year old fossil from the Omo 1 site in Ethiopia shows the beginnings of the skull changes that we associate with modern people, including a rounded skull case and possibly a projecting chin. A 160,000 year old skull from the Herto site in the Middle Awash area of Ethiopia also seems to be at the early stages of this transition. It had the rounded skull case but retained the large brow ridges of archaic humans. Somewhat more advanced transitional forms have been found at Laetoli in Tanzania dating to about 120,000 years ago. By 115,000 years ago, early modern humans had expanded their range to South Africa and into Southwest Asia shortly after 100,000 years ago. Evidently, they did not appear elsewhere in the Old World until 60,000-40,000 years ago. This was during a short temperate period in the midst of the last ice age.

    The category archaic Homo sapiens is disputed.[1] There is no single agreed upon definition of archaic Homo sapiens. According to one definition, Homo sapiens is a single species comprising several subspecies that include the archaics and modern humans. Under this definition, modern humans are referred to as Homo sapiens sapiens and Archaics are also designated with the prefix “Homo sapiens”. For example, the Neanderthals are Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, and Homo heidelbergensis is Homo sapiens heidelbergensis. Other taxonomists prefer not to consider archaics and modern humans as a single species but as several different species. In this case the standard taxonomy is used, ie Homo rhodesiensis, or Homo neanderthalensis.[1]

    The dividing lines that separate modern humans from archaic Homo sapiens and archaics from Homo erectus are blurry. The earliest known fossils of anatomically modern humans such as the Omo remains from 195,000 years ago, Homo sapiens idaltu from 160,000 years ago, and Qafzeh remains from 90,000 years ago are recognizably modern humans. However, these early modern humans do exhibit a mix of some archaic traits, such as moderate, but not prominent, brow ridges.

    >

    http://goo.gl/8aGTF

    1. Why should modern homo be a product of a single species with so many, clearly ‘racial’, differentiations, when scientists don’t even agree that our various (Heidelbergenis, Rhodesiensis) Homo Antecedent was? All data from truly ancient bones is purely morphological. All genetics (Y and Mitochondrial mutation rates) from modern populations point to a major genetic displacement between populations L1/L2/L3, beginning about 50-80,000 years ago. Anything before then (and certainly to 200KYA), should be considered a precursor species ‘no matter what it looks like’, IMO.

    2. Why does no one reach an obvious conclusion? Motor process and Cognitive process neurons look NOTHING alike. The former is more like a rose of long, thick, axonial bundles. The latter more like a trellis of fine networking interconnects. If it only takes a few generations for wild animals which have -never- known true sapience to begin to develop ‘behavioral’ (psychoses, IMO) traits while losing total brain mass, does it not suggest to you that, where a hunter must be both smarter -and- harder hitting than his wilely prey, a subsistence agro worker is only as ‘smart’ as the seasons require him to engage in enormous drudge labors to survive?

    3. Finally, remember the Spartans!

    >

    This is Spartan27, for the ones who question, consider that the average height of a Spartan warrior was 5’10”, weight approx 185-200 lbs (all muscle), the average weight of the shield was between (depending on in-lays) 17 to 27lbs, the armor was an additional (at the very least) 20lbs. You are talking of a very, very strong man. This does not include his spear. There have been archeological digs that have uncovered full battle armor from Thermapolyie, and then using computer algorithmic calculation, confirms that the man would have to be at least 5’10” to correctly wear this armor. Using this algorithmic calculation, you can then forecast that not only would the Spartan defeat any known period warrior in combat, he would have (depending on which culture he was fighting against) kill ratios of anywhere from 5 to 1 (roman) to up to 35-40 to one (which was the Spartan to Persian kill ratio). From other calculations note these:

    Spartan against Mongols (3 to 1)

    Spartan against Celts (4 to 1)

    Spartan against Gauls (6-7 to 1)

    Spartan against Egyptian (15 to 1)

    Spartan against Samurai (3-4 to 1)

    Spartan against Indian (not American) 8-9 to 1)

    Spartan against North African (10-15 to 1)

    Spartan against Roman (5 to 1)

    Spartan against Athenian (Greek) (even)

    Spartan against Viking (3 to 1)

    Spartan against Chinese (10-11 to 1)

    Spartan against Persian (depending on which historian you base and set your delta component is anywhere from 30 to 1 all the way up to 100 to 1).

    These are facts, not fiction……can easy be looked up using modern computer algorithmic techniques, archeological facts and some historic knowledge (found in your local library).

    >

    http://goo.gl/eX8qL

    David and Goliath aside, size is it’s own advantage in war as in social dominance patterns of culture. But where the control system is biochemical, not electric, you need big motor capacity to ‘spark’ big muscles to lift dense bones, whether hunting or fighting.

    The question then becomes whether a solid peak on the neuro-inductance scale from a regimen of constant physical activity aids or degrades higher cognitive function. I’m going to bet the answer to that one is surprising to professional couch potato and marathon runner alike.

  • Anonymous

    8 — ciccio wrote at 10:54 PM on June 16:

    This article is absolute rubbish. A 19th century bed is quite a few inches shorter than a modern one. Just look at 12th century suits of armour, the biggest is about 5’6”. Whilst it is true that some modern brains are shrinking, this is strictly confined to left-wing academics.”

    You are a great example of how evidence is ignorantly used by those of incomplete education.

    Having studied history all my life and even toured the Tower of London and other sites, I learned that beds are no indication of the size of people. For example; It is well known that Henry Vlll was tall, his sets of armor in the Tower of London illustrate that well, yet his bed was short. Why? People slept half sitting, more propped up by pillows – if they were wealthy and had beds at all. 19th century beds were not short, only more realistic compared to today where having a huge bed is some sort of status and sex symbol, and sprawling in bed is popular, whereas in the past, it was considered indecent – just as sleeping nude was a huge taboo. Peasants slept in straw beds horizontally. Full suits of armor were not even made nor existed in the 12th century. Chain mail was used by the most wealthy and covered with an overgarment – think Knights Templar with those big crosses painted on their out robes. Most of the suits of armor in museums, survived because they were NEVER used in combat, which is because they were made for sons of nobles, as toys. Any applicable museum curator could tell you that. Some were made for boys as late as the 19th century, when there was a popular romantic medieval revival in Britain, that even included a revival of jousting.

    Archeological evidence is often misinterpreted, but these examples are not even in question. What provided periods of shorter people, such as the 19th century, was WAR. The Napoleonic Wars for example drained much of Europe of their taller males, which were used as infantry and so slaughtered like sheep, a real tragedy. The 17th century Thirty Years War had the same effect. Poverty and famine favors shorter people. It has already been pointed out recently that the LARGER Neanderthals likely died on because they were hunter-gatherers and lived in regions where the climate grew harsher, while violent clashes with Homo sapiens likely occurred in the more Southern and Middle Eastern regions, mating did as well. All people, especially Euros (perhaps due to Neanderthal genetics) have genes for height and it always returns eventually, as most women are attracted to taller males. (Note; there are some really remarkable population pockets of French people in Southern France near the Pyrenees who are uniformly short, near or actually midget. I am 5’6″ and I felt like a giant among them).

    Although the Dutch are tall people, I believe that Slavs tend to be the tallest. I saw many more seven footers in the Balkans, and not one in The Netherlands, or Western Europe. But it is possible that Nordics have a taller average height (not including Finns, who are actually not Nordic).

  • Anonymous

    16 — Anonymous wrote at 10:28 AM on June 17:

    “The infiltrated “revised” Christianity we have seen for the last couple of hundred or more years. Christianity used to be called the White Mans Religion for a REASON. Our peoples fought wars in the distant past FOR our own racial survival and for that White Mans Religion. Not any longer. They are all about “converting” nonwhites of the world, peace and love, forgiveness, interracial marriages/adoptions, in other words, they are following satan and his minions on earth.”

    You are incorrect about the early Church. It was always inclusive. There are plenty of examples of non-whites among the first Christians, and if you are someone who thinks that Jews were/are not white, then you are in real trouble, do I need to mention why?

    Nothing in the NT, whether it is the alleged words of Jesus, Paul or even John in Revelations, mentions Christianity as an exclusive religion reserved for whites, or Europeans, or Caucasians. Your spin on Christianity as a White man’s religion comes from the much later Northern European, Protestant movements, that were seeking exclusiveness, principally Calvinism, which differed and disagreed with Lutheranism from the beginning. What I think I notice is that the Northern European exclusiveness that snuck into Christianity, is actually based in Pre-Christian exclusiveness of Nordic and Celtic religions. My Norman ancestors were NOMINAL, political Christians, who warred and fought for their new faith, just as if it were the same war god based Asatru of their fathers. The Roman Catholic Church made good use of this aspect of the Norman tendency to blur identities and assign martial aspects to the Christian God, since earthly power is what it has always been about, after all. After a while, the two were simply blurred generally through habit and enforced practices, which required some martial force in Europe by whites against whites as well.

    All this blurring and forgetfulness of our real history is the main reason why conservatives repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot when they proclaim Christianity while attempting to apply it to our natural tendency toward racial survival. Even the fairly recent article on the Boers in SA noted that hardened as they were, Christianity was the main obstacle of complete racial separation. Boers were taking in black children in need, as “good Christians.”

    I don’t see any change coming soon in this problem. Even a deeper discussion of this seems forbidden on Amren. Personal and group progress will always be naturally limited when self-examination is denied or discouraged. It is a mistake to think that we are just fine as we are. What we need to do most is to remember ourselves and who were truly are, what we were for thousands of years, and what we could be again.

  • Anonymous

    3 — BO_Bill wrote at 7:41 PM on June 16:

    “Once we were shown a New England fixer-upper house that was built in the 1700s. I’m taller than average, but nothing special, and clearly remember that those old doorways were too short to pass through without ducking.”

    Are we really this uniformly ignorant? While traveling in the remote regions of the British Isles in 1988 that the short doorways were to keep heat in and wind and rain out. Cottages, whether they were in England, Scotland, Wales or Ireland had multiple doors that could be closed to keep the heat in one part of house or another, depending upon what part of the house was being used most during the day. Modern style is all about opened plans and inefficiency, In the past, it was all about efficiency and survival, unless you were one of the relatively few privileged wealthy. It is logical that early American Colonial homes would be built for efficiency.

    You could also look up some paintings of folk living at that time in the colonies; not particularly dwarfish people.

  • True Blue

    Of course the average intelligence is going down, we have spent the past 60 years worldwide giving free food and medical care to people who cannot do for themselves -with the predictable result that they have bred even more people who ‘cannot’.

    With whites going from 30% of global population to 5% global population in one hundred years, did any of us expect the ‘average’ would do anything but decline in the same manner?

    To put these lefties on the spot, ask why they support a program of eugenics specifically designed to breed a dumbed down global population. They have maintained that eugenics is evil- when it is aimed toward improving the gene pool and removing unwanted traits -yet at the same time, they maintain that it is good to encourage people who cannot care for themselves to breed irresponsibly.

  • MuayTyson

    I’m not sure they have enough samples to determine that people are getting smaller. As been stated people are now larger than they have ever been since recorded history. Now prehistoric history maybe another thing entirely.

    I have a question about efficiency. Would it not be very inefficient to be so large? The last hundred years are so the World has had a decline in hunter gather groups but some did/do still exist as a rule were not the people in these group smaller than people living a modern existence?

    There has to be a cost benefit relationship to size and survival.

  • WR the elder

    Back in our hunter gatherer days if you were stupid you died. Today if you are stupid you get AFDC payments, Medicaid, food stamps, and section 8 housing. In our current civilization natural selection favors the not-so-bright.

    As another poster has pointed out, domestic animals also have significantly smaller brains than their wild forbears. An animal that gets fed every day and a safe place to live doesn’t have to think as much as an animal that has to find its own food every day while avoid being a meal for some other animal.

  • dumdidum

    I only know the numbers for Germany, but the study seems to have at least some flaws. Military recruiting statistics from the 18th century to today show that the average German male is roundabout 10cm taller than his ancestor. Further estimations depend on archeological findings and show quite a stagnant size from 800bc to the 16th century.

  • ghw

    “Along comes agriculture and body mass doesn’t mean as much, one can provide ample food for females/offspring even if they aren’t the biggest guy around. Brute force is still important but the those males capable of providing a stable food supply would still do as well, or even better than their larger counterparts.”

    –Sonya

    In fact, with the arrival of agriculture, smaller size could well be a big survival advantage in times of scarcity (which would have come periodically).

  • ghw

    “The earliest… date back 200,000 years, and were larger and ‘more robust’ than their modern-day counterparts, said Dr Marta Lahr, an expert in human evolution.”

    ………………

    The same change in “robustness” is found between domesticated animals and their original wild cousins (e.g. dogs and wolves). Is it not only natural that it would be found among humans as well? After all, civilization is simply a process of domestication. Why would it apply to dogs, cats, sheep, and cows… but not to humans?

    Also, the experience of living together in large, close-packed social groups, such as towns and then cities, requires the suppression of individuality and aggression and a greater emphasis on conformity and cooperation. (Look at the difference between Chinese and Africans.)

  • Roger Lee

    “An average person 10,000 years ago weighed between 12st 8lb and 13st 6lb. Today, the average is between 11st and 12st 8lb.”

    As an American, reading an American website, I have to ask, what the hell does that mean?

    Why should I have to look it up when there are far more Americans that Brits? You are getting like CNN, using obscure British expressions that have no place in an essentially American forum.