Jul 24, 2017

Ancient skulls show evidence of agriculture's rise

Heng Sinith / AP

Eating softer foods likely changed the shape of the human skull in small but functional ways as modern humans around the world began farming rather than foraging food, a new study finds. Previous studies indicated that the human skull changed somewhat as softer foods from agriculture altered the way people chew food but it was unclear just how prevalent the changes were.

An examination of 559 skulls and 534 mandibles from more than two dozen pre-industrial populations found modest changes — a reduction in jaw size and muscles associated with chewing — as humans adopted farming practices. .

Why it happened: As modern humans began farming, two agricultural staples – cereals made from grains and dairy from domesticated animals – became primary sources of food, the researchers said. Eating both meant people had to chew their food less. The largest changes in skull morphology occurred in populations eating dairy, indicating that consuming the softest foods had the greatest impact. The effects were seen in skulls from around the world, indicating the changes likely occurred on a global scale as humans evolved

One interesting side note: The changes attributed to diet are smaller in comparison to other factors that determine skull size (like female versus male, or environmental factors that limit diet in different parts of the world).

Go deeper

55 mins ago - Technology

The slippery slope of protest surveillance

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

President Trump's call to treat antifa supporters like terrorists could be a green light for high-tech surveillance of dissidents.

Why it matters: It's unlikely the Trump administration can designate antifa as a terrorist group in any legally meaningful way, but the declaration gives law enforcement tacit approval to use a plethora of tech tools to monitor protesters and left-leaning activists.

The biggest crisis since 1968

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photo: Bettmann/Contributor

The year 1968 has been on a lot of people’s minds lately — another year of protests, violence and upheaval that seemed to be tearing the nation apart.

Yes, but: This crisis also has moments we’ve never seen before — and some historians and experts say the differences suggest that 2020 doesn't compare well at all.

SoftBank to launch $100M fund backing companies led by people of color

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

SoftBank COO Marcelo Claure said in a letter to employees early Wednesday that the firm will create a $100 million fund that "will only invest in companies led by founders and entrepreneurs of color."

Why it matters: The Opportunity Growth Fund is one of the first to put significant capital behind companies' statements of empathy and outrage in response to protests over systemic racism in the U.S. typified by the killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans by police.