Humans have small, slender heads and weaker jaws, because of our discovery of soft foods like cheese and dairy, a new study suggests. Research by The University of California suggests the advent of farming, especially dairy products, had a small but significant effect on the shape of human skulls.
The reason is all in the effort it took to eat farmed food. Humans who live by hunting and foraging wild foods have to put more effort into chewing than those surviving on a softer diet of cheese and cereal mush. Without the daily work-out of crunching, grinding and gnawing, bones and muscle declined, refining the features of farming communities.
Hunter gatherers began to rely on diets from domesticated plants and animals from around 10,000 years ago, and archaeologists have noted the skulls began to shrink but could never quantify the change or say why it happened.
To pick out the changes, researchers studied more than 1,000 skulls and jaws from pre-industrial groups throughout the world who were either hunter gatherers or farmers.
They found that in farming communities one part of one of the major chewing muscles, the temporalis, became smaller and changed position as communities changed their diet. As a result the upper jaw became shorter and the lower jaw smaller.
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