Art History

Did human beings have differently shaped skulls, and thus smaller brains, a mere 650 years ago?1 According to new research by a British orthodontist the answer is yes:
“The two principal differences discovered were that our ancestors had more prominent features, but their cranial vault - the distance measured from the eyes to the top of the skull - was smaller. Dr Peter Rock, lead author of the study and director of orthodontistry at Birmingham University, told the BBC News website: "The astonishing finding is the increased cranial vault heights.

"The increase is very considerable. For example, the vault height of the plague skulls were 80mm, and the modern ones were 95mm - that's in the order of 20% bigger, which is really rather a lot."

He suggests that the increase in size may be due to an increase in mental capacity over the ages.”
I did some research of my own, and found that there are many pictures from around slightly after the era discussed illustrating exactly such differently shaped heads with “more prominent features” but smaller length of “cranial vault”:
It also seems humans in the medieval ages came in a wider variety of heights than they do now, as seen in this painting depicting a giantess and her five foot tall infant:

And, according to this 14th Century church painting, in some parts of England human beings still lived in trees:

The past, as they say, is another country. A country filled with slope-head tree dwellers and enormous babies.

1See Steve Sailer: Are our frontal lobes bigger than in late Medieval times?

Comments

  1. Maybe, I kind of doubt it. I wonder if they even took into account that people are just bigger overall now? It would have been better if they'd given their results in the percentages of facial space taken up.

    Here are forensic reconstructions of Alexander the Great's brother and 2000 year old bog mummy, "Yde girl":

    http://myweb.unomaha.edu/~jreameszimmerman/Alexander/images/musgrave_reconstruction.jpg

    http://illuminations.berkeley.edu/images/yde.jpg


    The book these are taken from has many reconstructions of mostly ancient skulls. The only one with a short, sloping forehead, large features is a very much alive Dutch archeaology professor.

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  2. The ancient Greeks were much smarter than ancient Britons (or anyone else, for that matter), so it's no surprise they had modern sized crainial vaults.

    As for that second one, she's clearly some sort of human-alien hybrid.

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  3. Here is an excerpt from a long poem called THE MODERN EPOCH (by Edward Williams, 1986). Taking this notion to an extreme:

    "I know the secret that has exploded in the
    Heart of the common man (retracting his gaze
    From the injured plain, to the interior of
    his own travelling wagon).
    It is so many years refining a notion of time,
    So many years to see memory, overwhelmed,
    By the plodding march of history, by truth
    Never held, dead stones along the highway,
    By the depth of silence and its sad epigraphs . . .
    When everyone knows from a visit to the museum,
    That the past is not a previous time, but
    A different place."

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  4. Do you know where I can find the rest of that poem, Mr. Shy? I would really like to read it.

    Speaking of the past, an Edward Williams drowned with Shelley...

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  5. And according to most paintings before 1800, very small children looked like tiny adults.

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  6. I too have a sloping forehead. I do not fret over my apparent lack of cranial capacity; my brain is a compact model, running more efficiently. My economy of expression is a direct result.
    I also require less reading and intellectual stimulation before I'm off and running at the mouth.
    My protruding features gain me the upper hand in foot races and life in general; I start out ahead by a nose.
    Perhaps those small children were homonculi, fully formed from the womb?

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  7. Steve: Which is why before 1800 most children pretty much acted like tiny adults as well.

    Dennis: My advice is that you should start wearing one of those cool hats like the guy in the first picture. You can tell from the painting the look would work for you.

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