Ancient skulls show civilization rose as testosterone fell

Recommended by Dr. Michael White, Updated on November 23rd, 2020
Reading Time: 2 minutes

With all due respect to all themacho men out there, you guys might have been holding the human race back at least in prehistoric times.Researchers at Duke University and theUniversity of Utahsay the rise of human civilization as we know it is linked to a drop in testosterone levels.

The paper, published in the journal Current Anthropology, posits that a testosterone deficit facilitated the friendlinessand cooperation between humans, which lead tomodern society.Study lead RobertCieriposits"reduced testosterone levels enabled increasingly social people to better learn from and cooperate with each other."

While Homo sapiensare at least 200,000 years old, the species didn't really start acting human until at least 50,000 years ago, when widespread use of tools and ornaments first appeared. (ViaPBS)

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Cieritheorized that a drop in testosterone might be correlated with that renaissance, and looked to ancient skulls for evidence. Testosterone levels can significantly shape the development ofcertainfacial features,particularly the brow ridge and upper face.

The scientists examined 1,400 human skulls from various prehistoric and modern periods. Comparing the newer skulls to the ancient ones, researchersnoticeda sharp decline in features sculpted bytestosterone; modern skulls havesmaller brows and more rounded faces. (ViaMatt Celeskey / CC BY SA 2.0,High Contrast / CC BY 3.0 DE,Thomas Roche / CC BY SA 2.0)

Based on these findings, the study concluded two things;"the fossil record ofH. sapiensdoes reflect reductions in craniofacial masculinity,"and"it seems likely that important increases in human social tolerance developed during this interval."(ViaCurrent Anthropology)

Or asThe Washington Postputs it, the decline of testosterone led to"less head clubbing and more community building, basically."

There's some precedent for these findings in the animal kingdom. The researchers cited previous studies of Siberian foxes, whose appearances became more juvenileas they weredomesticated. They also noted the differences in facial structures between aggressivechimpanzees and their more relaxed cousins, the bonobos. (ViaVimeo / Tyler Cole,Psych USD / CC BY SA 3.0,Thomas Lersch / CC BY SA 3.0)

But there's only so much information researchers can glean from the ancient skulls. For instance, the study doesn't reveal whether the testosterone-lackingskulls were actuallycaused by a testosteronedeficiency, or if the developing humanssimply had fewer and fewerreceptors for the chemical.

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Ancient skulls show civilization rose as testosterone fell

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