I’ve never seriously studied anthropology, paleontology, or paleoanthropology. When I read someone who seems or claims to be an expert on paleoanthropology or certain aspects of evolution, it requires a degree of trust on my part.
(I have a stronger background in evolution, thanks to a B.S. degree in Zoology. I was thoroughly indoctrinated in the mid-1970s.)
It was a slow day at work, so I just spent a couple hours perusing the blog of an actual paleoanthropologist named John Hawks. It’s a massive database that may be the equivalent of a paleoanthropology textbook. Naturally, it will reflect the biases of the author, if any (and we all have some, don’t we?) .
Some interesting things you’ll find there:
- the iconoclastic thought that human evolution has accelerated over the last five or ten thousand years, thanks to our population growth
- we don’t know as much as you may think we do about ancestral diets and lifestyles; researchers may over-interpret the evidence
- explanations of modern investigative techniques
Regarding the pace of human evolution in the Neolithic period, Artemis P. Simopoulos (with The Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health in 2009) has a different view:
The spontaneous mutation rate for nuclear DNA is estimated at 0.5% per million years. Therefore, over the past 10,000 years there has been time for very little change in our genes, perhaps 0.005%. In fact, our genes today are very similar to the genes of our ancestors during the Paleolithic period 40,000 years ago, at which time our genetic profile was established.
I dunno; you decide.
Reference: Simopoulos, Artemis P. Evolutionary aspects of the dietary omega-6:omega-3 fatty acid ratio: medical implications. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics, 100 (2009): 1-21. Epub August 17, 2009.