Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Clothes Make the Man

Although it might seem self-evident (and, therefore, probably isn't), the adoption of clothing has had a pronounced effect on our ability to adjust to our surroundings and, consequently, to deflect the effects of natural selection. An article in DNAIndia reports that research is being carried out to study the effects of clothing on evolution:

In his study, Gilligan wants to understand the physiological, psychological and prehistoric aspects of clothing.

"I'm interested in clothing in a fundamental, novel sense, particularly its prehistoric origins and why it came into being. The reason that it is so important struck me very early on. Clothing is the thing that separates us from nature, literally and symbolically," he said.

"It's the one invention that we have with us almost all the time. It's not just a passive reflection of our personality and our culture. It actually affects us in the way we perceive ourselves and our environment. It's a large part of what distinguishes modern-day humanity from everything else," he added.

In addition to distinguishing humans from other things, Gilligan argues that clothing separates humans from our environment and from our physical selves.

It isn't clear when clothing first was used, but the capacity for it probably dates back well beyond Neandertals, since it is clear that they would not have survived without it in Europe or Russia. It is further likely that any hominid making the trek out of Africa would have needed some covering, suggesting that the very early Homo erectus hominids from Dmanisi probably had something to cover themselves because even at the gates of Europe, it would have gotten cold.

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