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10+ Questions about our ancestors and the genes they left us

There are those who believe that, in reality, we know nothing about our most distant ancestors. Ancient peoples are still shrouded in myths, some of which have been contradicted by surprising findings and discoveries of great scientific importance. Do you think, for example, that the Yeti, also known as the Abominable Snowman, was Neanderthal? Or that modern man is perfect in the eyes of nature? Where did the ancient giants live and why do humans receive organ transplants from pigs if our ancestors were primates?

O incredible.club researched various sources on anthropology to better understand the mysteries of humanity’s mysterious past. Did you hit curiosity? Then keep reading!

Is the current man the maximum perfection of nature?

Sharks are constantly gaining new teeth, rodent incisors grow and wear down throughout their lives. Humans only have two sets of teeth in their lifetime. A person can run at a maximum of 44 km/h, while the cheetah reaches a speed that exceeds 100 km/h. A whale is capable of submerging to a depth of 3,000 meters, remaining there for an hour and a half, while a human with diving equipment can only descend to a depth of 60 meters and for a few minutes. We need to eat several meals a day; on the other hand, the scorpion is content to eat once a year.

Nature does not create perfect or imperfect organisms: what happens is that evolution keeps those best adapted to the conditions in which they live. Therefore, all beings that did not go extinct could win the “perfect by nature” award.

When will experts find the ‘missing link’ between modern man and the ape?

Discoveries made at the end of the 20th century confirmed that we and modern anthropoid apes have the same common ancestors, and they are just primates. About 7 million years ago, evolution led the ancestors of homo sapiens, our species, along a path of its own. But it was not a chain, but a complete tree: different species coexisted and interbred. Proof of this is the recent discovery of bone fragments from a girl who was the daughter of a Denisovan man with a Neanderthal mother — two species of hominids that are now extinct and that coexisted with ours. There is also evidence of Homo sapiens interbreeding with Neanderthals.

Currently, scholars have been focusing on other findings that help complete our family tree: we know that, most likely, the last common ancestor between chimpanzee gorillas and hominids (including humans) was the nakalipithecus🇧🇷 already the australopithecus afarensisfound in 1974, became the representative of the first species to walk on two legs.

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If people have so many ancestors, how is the Earth not filled with their remains?

A field mouse litter has 3 to 7 pups. In a year, the female has up to 5 litters. In a month and a half, each chick becomes an adult and reproduces. With reproducing at such a high speed, the remains of field mice should also be crowding every space on the ground. But then, why is it difficult to find even skeletons of the great dinosaurs that inhabited our Planet for millions of years?

In the soil, the remains of living beings are rarely conserved for a long time. They are consumed by micro-organisms: the bacteria absorb the bones, while the rest is dissolved in water. The best preserved remains are usually in marshy areas or under a layer of volcanic ash, which slows down the decomposition process.

Could it be that the Yeti is a Neanderthal that has survived to this day living in caves?

Suppose that, if it exists, the Yeti (the so-called abominable snowman) is a distant relative of humans living in the Himalayas. To survive, he would need a large circle of friends and relatives, in addition to occupying a vast territory. Hiding the fact of the existence of a creature like the Yeti would be impossible: any animal leaves tracks behind it. Whether they are nests, housing, fur or feathers, feces, tools or food scraps.

The relationship between Yeti and Neanderthals is even more difficult to believe. While the legendary Yeti is described as an ape-like creature, today experts agree in stating that Neanderthal man was a strong and intelligent hunter, who knew how to produce tools and who adorned himself with pendants made of shells and teeth. The most reliable evidence to date is that, if it exists, the snowman is, in fact, a species of bear, not a hominid.

About 4% of people have Neanderthal genes? Do they look like prehistoric people?

Is it true that prehistoric man was wild and intellectually limited?

No, they weren’t. Neanderthals, who disappeared around 40,000 years ago, already used language for communication, produced complex tools and painted their bodies. Their descendants, the Cro-Magnons (who coexisted with and are believed to have clashed with the Neanderthals), lived in tents, tamed dogs, made household items and adornments, and performed funerary rituals.

Primitive people had no moral rules, leading a lawless life and killing each other. That’s true?

In nature, the lives of different species are subject to certain rules. For example, chimpanzees fight each other, but they rarely seriously injure an opponent. However, they are capable of killing other individuals in case of real danger. Still, their behavior during conflict is very different from the behavior adopted by humans in the 21st century.

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Even modern hunter-gatherers follow a stricter moral rule than those found in so-called developed countries. This was proven by the Russian anthropologist Stanislav Drobyshevski, after he had interacted with the Hadza, an East African tribe: in that community, everything is distributed equally, nobody lies, steals or envy. Drobyshevski talks more about the life and culture of our ancestors ​here.

What was life expectancy in antiquity?

Daily physical exertion, as well as the traumas suffered and the risk of being attacked by large predators, depleted our ancestors’ bodies. The average life expectancy of a Neanderthal was 30 years. But scholars have found remains of older people. Shanidar’s famous Neanderthal elder is a good example: he had only one eye, was lame, suffered from severe back pain, and had very worn teeth. Still, he lived a long life thanks to his fellow tribesmen. At the time of his death, he was around 40 years old.

If our closest relatives are monkeys, why are there people who claim that we can receive transplanted organs from pigs?

Humans do not receive organ transplants from other animals, although several attempts have been made: in 1963, the first chimpanzee kidney transplant for a person was performed: the organ worked for 9 months. As early as 1994, a human patient was given a pig’s liver, which worked for just 30 hours. Today it is known that not even a human organ is well accepted by the organism of another person, much less that of an animal.

Also, when experimenting with new treatment methods, scientists are using mouse cells more often. At the molecular level, mice (nor other animals) are not so different from humans: protein synthesis in all eukaryotes is carried out by identical ribosomes.

Why were ancient people so big? Are we descendants of alien civilizations?

More than half a century ago, science became aware of megaanthropes and gigantopithecus (up to 4m in height), even though they have nothing to do with megalithic structures: they lived too long ago and did not carry out constructions. Furthermore, it was proved that people of our current stature could perfectly well have built Stonehenge (the famous ruins in England) or the pyramids.

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When we analyze the remains of our most developed ancestors, we can say with complete confidence that, compared to them, we are real giants. The large volume of the skull does not mean that they were tall: the African australopithecus was 1.5m tall, although its skull was larger than ours. Only the Cro-Magnons were the same height as us, averaging six feet. Brain volume and skull size decreased, but height and proportion increased due to higher quality of life, varied diet, advanced medicine and high protein diet.

Is it true that our ancestors were vegetarians? So, is eating meat unnatural?

Most primates are omnivores — one exception is gorillas. Hence the presence of the incisors, to bite the flesh. In fact, part of the diet of most primates is made up of birds and their bones, insects, small animal meat and fish.

Ancient humans gradually increased the amount of meat in their diet: the food is easy to chew, quickly satisfies hunger and guarantees energy, which allowed survival during glacial periods and contributed to the development of the brain, which now absorbs up to 25 % of the energy of the whole organism. Hunting animals also required creativity: people began to develop traps and improve their own tools.

Currently, in any supermarket, we can buy vegetables that are more caloric than meat. But ancient men had few options. Wild bananas, for example, were less caloric, breaking a coconut was a more difficult task, and wild beans and rice needed a long time to cook. The domestication of cereals and the beginning of plantations only occurred 12 thousand years ago. That is, today you can become a vegetarian without harming your health, but for ancient man, the practice could lead to extinction.

Does the world still have places where people live like our most distant ancestors?

Obviously, today’s traditional communities are not exact copies of the ancients, and experts are aware of this. However, many people still retain certain aspects of their old life. At least some of them make the same tools that archaeologists find in Stone Age settlements. A curious case is that of the Australian aborigines, who lived like this until recently.

To know what life was like for a prehistoric or at least medieval person, one would have to act like the young Russian Pavel Sapozhnikov, who went to a forest, built a hut…

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