Eating fish may have given Neanderthals brainpower
A new finding suggests Neanderthals were far from the big dumb brutes we make them out to be.
- Scientists have found evidence that the Neanderthals were eating large amounts of fish long before modern humans got to Europe.
- Previously, it was thought that only modern humans were fishing on a large scale.
- The findings show that the Neanderthals were more like us than most people think.
New evidence from a cave in Portugal suggests the Neanderthals were eating fish before modern humans settled Europe. This finding not only changes our understanding of Neanderthals and how they lived but gives further evidence that they were more like us than we tend to imagine.
Nothing fishy about this
An international team explored a cave, known as Figueira Brava, and used uranium-thorium dating to determine the age of excavation layers. The use of the technique allowed the scientists to discover that the layer is between 86,000-106,000 years old, dating back to before modern humans came to Europe.
Since archaeologists have already found hundreds of fish bones alongside the remains of waterfowl, clams, and dolphins in the cave, the dating suggests that Neanderthals were eating a diverse aquatic diet long before fishing was thought to have been introduced to Europe. While previous investigations had shown that Neanderthals collected shells, including those of edible animals, and used them for making jewelry, this is the first strong evidence that they were actually eating marine animals.
Filipa Rodrigues, an author of the paper published in Science on the subject, told the New York Times: "We all have that image of the primitive Neanderthal that eats lots of meat… Now, we have this new perspective that they explored the marine resources like Homo sapiens did."
What does eating fish have to do with anything?
Fish and other types of seafood contain Omega-3 fatty acids, which promotes the growth and development of brain tissue. It has been speculated that the eating of fish may have played a part in the development of early modern humans, giving them the boost in brainpower needed to create symbolic ideas and complex organization.
Just as eating fish is thought to have helped our immediate ancestors develop their capacity for abstract thought, this finding could explain how Neanderthals were able to function at a similar level. Contrary to popular opinion, Neanderthals were reasonably intelligent. They were able to create fire, had social structures, made cave paintings, built boats, turned seashells into jewelry, used language, and did many other things that anatomically modern humans did.
Perhaps a diet featuring fish made all of this possible.
Neanderthals were more human than most people think. This finding shows yet another activity previously thought to be done only by homo-sapiens was also done with regularity by others before our evolutionary cousins died out. While more research is needed to know if this was a widespread behavior or if the cultivation of this much seafood was limited to certain areas, the discovery changes what we thought we knew about our long gone and much maligned cousins.
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The idea of 'absolute time' is an illusion. Physics and subjective experience reveal why.
- Since Einstein posited his theory of general relativity, we've understood that gravity has the power to warp space and time.
- This "time dilation" effect occurs even at small levels.
- Outside of physics, we experience distortions in how we perceive time — sometimes to a startling extent.
Physics without time<p>In his book "The Order of Time," Italian theoretical physicist Carlo Rovelli suggests that our perception of time — our sense that time is forever flowing forward — could be a highly subjective projection. After all, when you look at reality on the smallest scale (using equations of quantum gravity, at least), time vanishes.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If I observe the microscopic state of things," writes Rovelli, "then the difference between past and future vanishes … in the elementary grammar of things, there is no distinction between 'cause' and 'effect.'"</p><p>So, why do we perceive time as flowing <em>forward</em>? Rovelli notes that, although time disappears on extremely small scales, we still obviously perceive events occur sequentially in reality. In other words, we observe entropy: Order changing into disorder; an egg cracking and getting scrambled.</p><p>Rovelli says key aspects of time are described by the second law of thermodynamics, which states that heat always passes from hot to cold. This is a one-way street. For example, an ice cube melts into a hot cup of tea, never the reverse. Rovelli suggests a similar phenomenon might explain why we're only able to perceive the past and not the future.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"Any time the future is definitely distinguishable from the past, there is something like heat involved," Rovelli wrote for the <a href="https://www.ft.com/content/ce6ef7b8-429a-11e8-93cf-67ac3a6482fd" target="_blank"><em>Financial Times</em></a>. "Thermodynamics traces the direction of time to something called the 'low entropy of the past', a still mysterious phenomenon on which discussions rage."</p>
The strange subjectivity of time<p>Time moves differently atop a mountain than it does on a beach. But you don't need to travel any distance at all to experience strange distortions in your perception of time. In moments of life-or-death fear, for example, your brain would release large amounts of adrenaline, which would speed up your internal clock, causing you to perceive the outside world as moving slowly.<br></p><p>Another common distortion occurs when we focus our attention in particular ways.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"If you're thinking about how time is <em>currently</em> passing by, the biggest factor influencing your time perception is attention," Aaron Sackett, associate professor of marketing at the University of St. Thomas, told <em><a href="https://gizmodo.com/why-does-time-slow-down-and-speed-up-1840133782" target="_blank">Gizmodo</a></em>.<em> "</em>The more attention you give to the passage of time, the slower it tends to go. As you become distracted from time's passing—perhaps by something interesting happening nearby, or a good daydreaming session—you're more likely to lose track of time, giving you the feeling that it's slipping by more quickly than before. "Time flies when you're having fun," they say, but really, it's more like "time flies when you're thinking about other things." That's why time will also often fly by when you're definitely <em>not</em> having fun—like when you're having a heated argument or are terrified about an upcoming presentation."</p><p>One of the most mysterious ways people experience time-perception distortions is through psychedelic drugs. In an interview with <a href="https://www.theguardian.com/books/2018/apr/14/carlo-rovelli-exploding-commonsense-notions-order-of-time-interview" target="_blank"><em>The Guardian</em></a>, Rovelli described a time he experimented with LSD.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"It was an extraordinarily strong experience that touched me also intellectually," he said. "Among the strange phenomena was the sense of time stopping. Things were happening in my mind but the clock was not going ahead; the flow of time was not passing any more. It was a total subversion of the structure of reality."<br></p><p>It seems few scientists or philosophers believe time is completely an illusion.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"What we call <em>time</em> is a rich, stratified concept; it has many layers," Rovelli told <em><a href="https://physicstoday.scitation.org/do/10.1063/PT.6.4.20190219a/full/" target="_blank">Physics Today</a>.</em> "Some of time's layers apply only at limited scales within limited domains. This does not make them illusions."</p>What <em>is</em> an illusion is the idea that time flows at an absolute rate. The river of time might be flowing forever forward, but it moves at different speeds, between people, and even within your own mind.
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