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Thread: Hominds and walking sticks

  1. #1 Hominds and walking sticks 
    Time Lord
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    We've seen that bonobos support bipedal movement quite a lot by grabbing trunks and vines. We've seen that chimpanzees walk upright when wielding a stick-weapon. Also gorillas bring a pole for third leg when wading.

    So I'm guessing our ancestors employed sticks at least as much. Now I speculate they may have used sticks routinely, as walking aids.

    The evidence would be in the wrist, and forearm twist I think. Would they more likely use a cane, with hand over end, or staff, with hand grasping along the length? Homo sapiens hikers prefer a staff, while the elderly prefer canes.


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  3. #2  
    Forum Cosmic Wizard SkinWalker's Avatar
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    I would recommend reading papers by Owen Lovejoy as well as Jack Stern and Randall Susman. They've both done a lot of work on hominid bipedality and morphological patterns in fossil hominids and primates.

    Walking sticks themselves would be exceedingly difficult to place in the archaeological record and, thus, quantify empirically since wood doesn't endure well for the lengths of time necessary (2 - 6 million years ago).

    There are several key hypotheses for why hominids became bipedal, but the best we've been able to do is narrow down some points in time when it happened. It certainly occurred by 3.9 - 2.9 Ma (with Australopithecus afarensis) and probably as early as 4.4 Ma (with Ardipithecus ramidus).


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  4. #3  
    Time Lord
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    Thanks I'll look into them sometime I'm feeling smarter than I am. Wasn't really expecting personalized sticks, just a suggestive change in forearm or (the clincher) heavy load on one arm. What I've read thus far is saying bipedalism freed our hands for throwing, etc. no suggestion hands adapted to aid bipedalism.
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    Forum Cosmic Wizard SkinWalker's Avatar
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    At least one hypothesis for the advent of bipedality comes from observing arboreal bipeds like orangutans and even howler monkeys. They use their hands to stand upright in trees by walking on a limb and grasping other limbs overhead. Of course, the howlers also use their tail.

    As arboreal environments began to shrink and grassland environments grew, there probably came times when it was necessary for ape/hominids to leave the relative safety of trees for open ground to new trees.

    Lovejoy's hypothesis (a little far-fetched for many, including myself) includes the nuclear family model: male hominids ranged away from homebases leaving the female to care for young -the male brought back food for the female and his children. This, he claims, is the basis for modern monogamy and the male benefited by ensuring the survival of his DNA (his children) by providing food for the mother/spouse and children.

    The flaws with his hypothesis are numerous, but one is the male can't know for sure that the child(ren) is(are) his. While he's out foraging, his friends are stopping by! Also, there is little evidence in anatomically modern humans of "monogamy," which is more of an ideal state than a real one. Still, its interesting and there may be some truth to the hands free for foraging/holding young while moving idea.
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  6. #5  
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    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    At least one hypothesis for the advent of bipedality comes from observing arboreal bipeds like orangutans and even howler monkeys. They use their hands to stand upright in trees by walking on a limb and grasping other limbs overhead.
    Yeah I've seen attempts to attribute our arm/wrist/hand changes with arboreal mechanics and also different styles of knuckle walking, even throwing or (absurdly) punching. I just haven't seen a single try at adaptation with pole or cane. Why is it so easy & natural feeling to hike with a stick? Our arms seem perfected for it. And we see that when walking stamina or balance is weakened (i.e. regressed), humans naturally employ a walking stick.



    Quote Originally Posted by SkinWalker
    Lovejoy's hypothesis... the male can't know for sure that the child(ren) is(are) his.
    Well, in his indirect defense I'd say it doesn't matter in the context of evolving groups. It is still advantageous to divide labour by gender. See how genes responsible for sexless worker bees dominate. The individual workers aren't committing genetic suicide, because their genes are also present in the queen who'd better pass those on for her own survival.

    Indirect because by that argument monogamy is kinda pointless.
    A pong by any other name is still a pong. -williampinn
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  7. #6  
    Forum Senior Booms's Avatar
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    purely by opinion I'd say they would have used Walking Staves

    a 'cane' seems much more of a specific modern invention, it seems to me that they are tailored specially for leg problems (may be entirely wrong here?) plus it'd be more time consuming and therefore less practical to hunt around for a stick the right height to lean on without a pointy end



    A staff on the other hand, lengths are less important, a 5ft stick will work as effectivly as a 7ft stick. Staves would also give more general support, if the hominid was a migrator it would provide an anchor and stability when crossing rivers and swamps
    there's also the point that we know chimps use tools, so a staff could have doubled as something to knock fruit from trees and bash the odd animal with

    and potentially could link to early spears, it's a much shorter technological advancement to move from throwing a sharp staff than it is to looking for sharp sticks longer than the common 'cane' just for the purpose of throwing it
    It's not how many questions you ask, but the answers you get - Booms

    This is the Acadamy of Science! we don't need to 'prove' anything!
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