Evolution is my favorite unit in biology; it is what I find most fascinating, especially human evolution and our ancestors. Last year while in Washington D.C. I was able to visit the Smithsonian’s Natural History Museum. They had an amazing exhibit on human evolution with sculptures and drawings of what our ancestors may have looked like and multiple casts of skulls that you touch in order to compare and discover differences and similarities between them. They had a booth were excavation of ancient skeletons was explained and seen. During this trip I discovered I have a strange love for Neanderthals, and was therefore very excited to see the talk.
Neanderthals fascinate me because they are so similar to Homo sapiens but are also distinctly different from us. That exhibit became the inspiration for my ceramics class where one of the pieces for my 20-hour was a terracotta Neanderthal skull. While I was researching the Neanderthal skull for my 20 hour I learned that many Neanderthals buried their dead with marked graves. This alluded to a much more civilized and evolved sense community than I had believed existed between Neanderthals. Mass media always portrays Neanderthals a stupid, large, brutes. One example John Hawks gave during is presentation was the Neanderthals in the Geico commercial
John hawks reveled new insights into Neanderthal life where that lived, how they communicated, what they ate, and whom they mated with. One particularly interesting insight was that each of us has about three percent Neanderthal DNA this is the same as having a great-great-great-great-grandmother who was a Neanderthal. Three percent doesn’t seem like allot, but when think about it suggests a substantial amount of cohabitation and interbreeding between Homo sapiens and Neanderthals.
Another discovery I found interesting was the fact the Neanderthals ate cooked grains, such as oats. My dad started the Paleo diet last year and one of the main arguments for the diet is that we should eat like our ancestors, like “cavemen”. While on the diet you are not allowed to eat dairy, legumes, and grains, because “cavemen” did not eat these things. I found it humorous that it has now been proven that Neanderthal ate grains, proving the reasons behind my dad’s weird diet false.
Over all I really enjoyed John Hawks presentation. It spoke directly about something I am interested in and allowed for me to make multiple personal connections. I have had to go the Humanities Festival for previous classes but the theme this year and this particular talk is my favorite thus far. I am looking forward to see if next years Humanities Festival will be just as interesting and enlightening.
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