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Craniofacial Feminization, Social Tolerance, and the Origins of Behavioral Modernity

Robert L. Cieri, Steven E. Churchill, Robert G. Franciscus, Jingzhi Tan and Brian Hare
Current Anthropology
Vol. 55, No. 4 (August 2014), pp. 419-443
DOI: 10.1086/677209
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/677209
Page Count: 25
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Craniofacial Feminization, Social Tolerance, and the Origins of Behavioral Modernity
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Abstract

The past 200,000 years of human cultural evolution have witnessed the persistent establishment of behaviors involving innovation, planning depth, and abstract and symbolic thought, or what has been called “behavioral modernity.” Demographic models based on increased human population density from the late Pleistocene onward have been increasingly invoked to understand the emergence of behavioral modernity. However, high levels of social tolerance, as seen among living humans, are a necessary prerequisite to life at higher population densities and to the kinds of cooperative cultural behaviors essential to these demographic models. Here we provide data on craniofacial feminization (reduction in average brow ridge projection and shortening of the upper facial skeleton) in Homo sapiens from the Middle Pleistocene to recent times. We argue that temporal changes in human craniofacial morphology reflect reductions in average androgen reactivity (lower levels of adult circulating testosterone or reduced androgen receptor densities), which in turn reflect the evolution of enhanced social tolerance since the Middle Pleistocene.

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