August 24, 2010

Yesterday In Baby Carrier History

prehistoric_man_baby.jpgSo yesterday archaeo-anthropologist Timothy Taylor explained to Gizmodo that the discovery of 2.5 million-year-old chipped stone tools that are at least 300,000 years older than the oldest known homo fossils suggests that not only did humans not invent tools, tools invented humans. I know you can walk upright, but for this theory, I suggest you be sitting down:

What were these tools used for?

Upright female hominins walking the savannah had a real problem: their babies couldn't cling to them the way a chimp baby could cling to its mother. Carrying an infant would have been the highest drain on energy for a hominin female - higher than lactation. So what did they do? I believe they figured out how to carry their newborns using a loop of animal tissue. Evidence of the slings hasn't survived, but in the same way that we infer lungs and organs from the bones of fossils that survive, it is from the stone tools that we can infer the bits that don't last: things made from sinew, wood, leather and grasses.

That is right, we owe the entirety of human evolution and existence to baby slings.

Which might be one argument for convincing the CPSC to not ban them after all. Help us, newly announced board of the recently formed Baby Carrier Industry Alliance, you're our only hope!

Artificial Ape Man: How Technology Created Humans [gizmodo]
Taylor's book, The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution, is on sale now [amazon]
Baby Carrier Industry Alliance announces board and names Industry Insider as Executive Director [babycarrierindustryalliance.memberlodge.org]

2 Comments

That has to be one of the more intriguing hypotheses I've read in a really long time. I've added his book to my list of must-reads. I especially like how he simultaneously agrees with and upends aspects of Kurzweill's singularity theory in ways that seem smart, based in thoughtful research, and aren't prone to James Cameron-esque scifi hyperbole. Plus, you can't beat an archeologist/anthropologist who cites Kant!

This guy certainly adds some new twists, but the idea of the significance of containers/carriers has been around awhile, I believe. Sometimes when wearing a kid I think back to an interesting essay science fiction writer Ursula LeGuin wrote in the '80s called "The Carrier Bag Theory of Fiction." In it she plays around with the theory that the first objects created by humans were containers/carriers and not tools/weapons and uses the idea to explain her approach to writing fiction.

Turns out somebody's scanned and posted that essay:

http://staff.washington.edu/meyera/engl242a/files/LeGuin.pdf

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