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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Heidelbergensis as athlete

Two posts ago I speculated as to whether Homo heidelbergensis and other earlier incarnations of man would have been worthy recipients of affirmative action, what with their smaller brain pans.

While reading about their brain capacity -- and presumably lesser intelligence -- I couldn't help but notice the greater muscularity of heidelbergensis. Biological anthropologists are able to make educated guesses as to a prehistoric hominid's muscularity from the thickness of their bones and the type of wear on the bones where the tendons are anchored. Evidently, heidelbergensis was far stronger than modern man.

So even if heidelbergensis would have come up a bit short in the brains department, he was tremendously strong, as this picture of him illustrates:

Here is a forensic sculptor's conception of heidelbergensis:

This one isn't muscled quite as dramatically, but he's still formidable-looking.

So while Homo heidelbergensis may have been a candidate for special ed, there's little doubt he would have dominated on the athletic field.

If that branch of hominid were around today, they'd probably dominate the sports world. The fellow in the top picture -- even without the benefit of steroids -- looks like an NFL running back.

According to Wikipedia, heidelbergensis men whose remains were found in Europe averaged roughly 5' 9" in height and weighed roughly 136 pounds. That doesn't exactly sound like NFL material. But, as per Wiki:

Numerous fossil bones indicate some populations of heidelbergensis were "giants" routinely over 2.13 m (7 ft) tall and inhabited South Africa between 500,000 and 300,000 years ago.

If there were a population of guys over seven feet tall who were built like the fellow in the top picture, they'd absolutely dominate the NFL and the NBA.

Who knows, some of the less academically-inclined colleges might even give them athletic scholarships before they turned pro. They'd probably need tutors to stay academically eligible, even with easy majors. They'd still probably finish at the bottom of their class. And they might occasionally be accused of rape.

But their colleges would get to participate in profitable postseason Bowl games, and that's the important thing.


Steven said...

In a previous post you compared Australian Aboriginals to Heidelbergensis but have you noticed that aboriginals are not so meromorphic and deep voiced like Africans. They don't really have that black high t look to me- there's more softness to them. And I noticed Kevin bloody Wilson does a high voice when he mimics them.

John Craig said...

Steven --
Good observation. Yes, Australian aborigines tend to be quite skinny, and in their old age they become "skinny fat." There have been a few good aborigine athletes, such as Cathy Freeman, the Olympic champion 400 meter runner in 2000, and Evonne Goolagong, the tennis player from 40 years ago, but not many. And I think both of the ones I just mentioned were half-white. The resemblance to heidelbergensis (and erectus) for the aborigines is facial, not from the neck down.

Then again, judging from what Wiki said about the average heidelbergensis male found in Europe being 5'9" and 136, they don't sound all that overwhelming physically either. (Though we have to remember, nutrition was an irregular thing back then, they didn't herd dairy cattle, and for purposes of comparison Europeans in the Middle Ages were short, too, men averaged something like 5'6". But reading about those Heidelbergensis from South Africa was impressive: the males "regularly" got over seven feet tall, and I'll assume many had musculature to match. Yikes.

Steven said...

yeah they would have been something to behold.


Dave Moriarty said...

your guy resembles RG3 the football player

John Craig said...

Dave --
Ha, there is a resemblance. But I'd say the guy at the top of the post has a smaller forehead, slightly fatter cheeks, and bigger muscles. (Personally, I'd be happy to sacrifice the brain if I could have those muscles.)