How Neolithic farming sowed the seeds of modern inequality 10,000 years ago

From The Guardian: How Neolithic farming sowed the seeds of modern inequality 10,000 years ago.

Most people regard hierarchy in human societies as inevitable, a natural part of who we are. Yet this belief contradicts much of the 200,000-year history of Homo sapiens.

In fact, our ancestors have for the most part been “fiercely egalitarian”, intolerant of any form of inequality. While hunter-gatherers accepted that people had different skills, abilities and attributes, they aggressively rejected efforts to institutionalise them into any form of hierarchy.

So what happened to cause such a profound shift in the human psyche away from egalitarianism? The balance of archaeological, anthropological and genomic data suggests the answer lies in the agricultural revolution, which began roughly 10,000 years ago. [continue]

Agriculture, declining mobility drove humans’ shift to lighter bones

From Science Daily: Agriculture, declining mobility drove humans’ shift to lighter bones.

Modern lifestyles have famously made humans heavier, but, in one particular way, noticeably lighter weight than our hunter-gatherer ancestors: in the bones. Now a new study of the bones of hundreds of humans who lived during the past 33,000 years in Europe finds the rise of agriculture and a corresponding fall in mobility drove the change, rather than urbanization, nutrition or other factors. [continue].

Excuse me while I go off to become ridiculously active.

Ancient graves suggest human sacrifice

From Ancient Graves Suggest Human Sacrifice.

Physically disabled people may have been ritually sacrificed by European hunter-gatherer tribes as early as 24,000 years ago, according to an investigation into burials from the Upper Paleolithic period.

Well known in large, stratified ancient societies, ritual human sacrifice has never been apparent in the archaeological data of Upper Paleolithic Europe (about 26,000 to 8,000 B.C.).

But, according to lead study author Vincenzo Formicola of the University of Pisa in Italy, several of these burials suggest that human sacrifices may have been an important ritual activity in this period.

"Our findings show that the Upper Paleolithic hunter-gatherers developed a complex system of beliefs, symbols and rituals that are unknown in small groups of modern foragers," Formicola told Discovery News. [continue]

Cavemen preferred full-figured ladies

From Cavemen preferred full-figured ladies.

Thin may be in now, but prehistoric men 15,000 years ago prefered full-figured gals, suggest dozens of flint figurines excavated from a Paleolithic hunting site in Poland.

Since almost identical depictions have been found elsewhere throughout Europe, the figurines indicate a shared artistic tradition existed even then.

The findings are published in the current issue of the journal Antiquity.

Co-author Romuald Schild explained that the artifacts offer "a cultural inventory" for the late Magdalenian era (18,000-10,000 years ago).

In the paper, Schild and colleagues Bodil Bratlund, Else Kolstrup and Jan Fiedorczuk describe the carvings as "stylized voluptuous female outlines” that “are cut out of flint flakes." [continue]