The particular human skills in throwing things have been known and studied for some time. As early as 1871 Charles Darwin noted in his The origin of man and sexual selection that probably human evolution depended a lot on the development of this ability, derived from bipedal locomotion: walking only on the feet freed the hands, allowing the hominids to do other things, such as looking for things, building or holding objects and, if necessary, throwing them.
Human ability to throw and its importance from an evolutionary point of view was talked about a little more than usual between 2013 and 2014, after Nature published a study on the matter by Neil T. Roach, a researcher in the Department of Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University. These days, however, they have talked about it The Conversation Robert Deaner and Michael P. Lombardo, authors of two more recent studies on the subject.
For his 2013 research, Roach compared the muscles and bones of humans and chimpanzees and found three main differences that, taken together, were, he said, instrumental in making humans better pitchers. One had to do with the possibilities of rotating the hips, another with the position of the shoulders and torso, and yet another with the twisting of the humerus. According to Roach, these three changes took place about two million years ago in theStanding man and allowed, in the moments before the launch, a much greater accumulation of elastic energy in the muscles, tendons and ligaments. An energy that once released allows the arm to generate a sort of “sling effect” and to make “the fastest movement a human body can produce”.
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According to Roach, several archaeological elements allow us to argue that the progress ofHomo erectus in the hunt were a consequence of his better casting abilities: they allowed “our hominid ancestors” to hunt large and dangerous prey from relative distances. They also allowed, when they succeeded in killing them, to eat better and trigger a series of conditions that “had profound effects on the biology and lifestyle of those ancestors of ours.” Someone has even hypothesized that the many and rapid “calculations” and “reasonings” necessary to make a precise throw (regardless of whether the prey was captured or not) were the basis of the cognitive evolution of some hominids.
The hypothesis that links human ability in throwing to hunting is the most accredited but not the only one. On The Conversation, Deaner and Lombardo lean towards the theory that the throwing of objects would have developed “within competitive interactions” between members of the species. In other words, even our ancestors – as well as several primates – began throwing things at each other “in combat contexts”, to challenge and perhaps even hurt each other. Deaner and Lombardo cite examples of some “non-human primates” (chimpanzees, but not only them) throwing sticks, pebbles and other objects at each other while fighting; it is a technique they master but rarely use in other contexts.
According to Deaner and Lombardo, therefore, casting is an “ancestral aspect” in primates, which our ancestors were able to develop for other purposes as well, making us “the only species capable of casting so well as to kill, both prey and rivals of the same species “.
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