Posted: 1:14 p.m. Thursday, June 27, 2013
BY SCOTT MALONE
When did you first try to throw a curveball? As a kid in your backyard? Maybe in little league? Well, how about two million years ago?!
According to a new study released Wednesday in the journal Nature, some scientists believe our human ancestors first started throwing with accuracy and power to hunt.
Researchers say the extinct species Homo erectus went through some anatomy changes — changes that allow even Little League-aged children to throw an object more than three times faster than our chimpanzee counterparts. (Via National Science Foundation)
So what exactly changed? These scientists say our torsos expanded, which now allows our muscles to stretch out, and the location of our upper arm bone changed — so we can form a 90 degree angle, which allows our arms to rotate freely. (Via Harvard University)
Researchers compare our arms to slingshots. When the arm cocks backward, the tendons, ligaments and muscles in our shoulders and elbows stretch and store energy that powers the rapid acceleration of the throwing motion. Scientists say this whole process allowed us to gain a significant advantage over other species. (Video via YouTube / maxpotentialpitching)
But why do these scientists point to the era roughly two million years ago? Didn’t we have other ways of hunting game anyway? (Via BBC)
“We see hunting behavior emerge around that time, the earliest evidence of hunting and bones that were butchered, and things of that nature, appear around two million years ago.” (Via George Washington University)
But that two million years ago mark is up for debate. One expert told USA Today long-range throwing requires a pair of traits that don’t surface in archaeological evidence until about 100,000 years ago.
Another expert told PBS“The first evidence of spears, our most powerful primitive weapons, appeared 400,000 years ago in Europe.” While the expert adds Homo erectus could have thrown rocks, the skills for hunting large game didn’t appear until later.
“If you don’t hit [a large animal] right where you want to every time, you just enrage the creature. We don’t see points that could penetrate hide until much later in archeological records.”
But supporters of the new research say the brain — not just our muscular structure — must be factored into our ability to throw. The researchers say they’re still hunting for evidence to explain pre-spear hunting to help prove their point.