How can we learn from the past? - Fossils, Cave Paintings, Disease.
Another look at anthropology
Fossils can tell us a great deal about the past. They can give us clues of what kinds of plants and animals lived at the time. They can give us ideas about how old those plant and animal remains are or when in time they lived. They give us clues of how and where they lived, what the climate was like at the time. Fossils can give us ideas about how animals survived, what they ate, how they got around, and how they died. There is much speculation in determining what the different attributes found in fossil records mean and to what extent it is accurate, but the science continues to become more advanced and accurate, as all the sciences come together to give a broader more accurate perspective of the past.
The significance of cave paintings is that they give us ideas of how intelligent and cultural the inhabitants of the caves in question were. The people who drew these cave paintings not only left behind evidence that they were advanced enough to paint on the cave walls, but also left behind evidence of their activities and what they found important enough to make paintings of. These people painted mostly animals that they most likely hunted as a major source of food, and in doing so left behind evidence of their activities. We probably don’t find more cave paintings in more areas because these were cultural activities that only some cultures adapted. Of course, there may be paintings that have yet to be discovered and paintings that simply didn’t survive due to multiple factors. One such factor may be the substance used to draw the paintings, or perhaps flooding or changing environmental factors have played a role. Whatever the case, the paintings that have been discovered offer valuable evidence of our history, and more discoveries would be a welcome addition to our known library of prehistoric history.
Disease has played an important role in human evolution. As with other significant environmental factors natural selection will tend to weed out weakness and foster strengths in regard to disease. For example, the CCR5 locus helps provide a resistance to HIV for carriers of the protein. I’m sure this type of genetic make up has played a large role in the evolution of not only humans but every living organism on the planet and in the universe. If a certain characteristic has an advantage it will give the carrier of that characteristic an advantage over non-carriers, thus making it more likely for that organism to live and reproduce and pass on that characteristic. Disease has and will continue to help shape what we become, because it will affect people with a weakness to it more than those who have a resistance to it. It may have less of an effect today than it once did due to the medical possibilities that have been developed in recent years. For example, disease that once killed nearly all who contracted it may only kill a few today, so those who have a weakness for contracting that disease will live and reproduce anyway.
Skin color is known to have developed as a way to balance vitamin D and Folate or folic acid. The amount of UV radiation that people are exposed to has an effect on skin color. The more exposure to UV the darker skin pigment becomes. People living in arctic regions have darker skin than predicted because of reflected UVR from the snow and ice and due to their vitamin D rich diets.