Did shape of human face evolve from violence?
Taking a punch to the face isn’t easy. But researchers from the University of Utah say our face has evolved to better withstand blows to the face.
Published in Biological Reviews, the research team honed in on our evolution from australopiths, human-like primates that existed in Africa between 6 and 1.2 million years ago. They had several traits similar to humans, except their cheek bones were much bigger.
It’s believed that the shape of our prehistoric ancestors’ faces used to be large because of difficult foods they chewed, such as nuts. But the Utah researchers examined fossil records and noticed the face bones with the highest fracture rates in fights, also greatly increased in their strength and durability during evolution. These evolutionary changes also coincide with changes in our ancestors’ hand proportions to be able to make a fist.
Therefore, the researchers believe the evolution of these facial features was in response to protecting the face during fist fighting. The team also notes violence played a larger part in the evolutionary process than most people realize. While this is not a definitive explanation for evolutionary skull changes, it does add another aspect to the conversation.