Face Off

Scientists show we’ve been losing face for 10,000 years – Newspaper Edition – Times Online: “The human face is shrinking. Research into people’s appearance over the past 10,000 years has found that our ancestors’ heads and faces were up to 30% larger than now.

“Many men then would have had the shape of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s head while women might have looked more like Camilla [the Duchess of Cornwall]. By contrast, Tony Blair and George Bush are good examples of the more delicate modern form.””

Us throwbacks have a genetic base then, with our lantern jaws, ill-fitting teeth and heavy brow-ridges. At least it’s reassuring to know (as the article says) indicates that they can’t attribute a reason to why the cranial vault has grown and the face has shrunk; that to me is a signifcant failure of imagination. The decreased solidity of the human face could be explained by a reduction in the need for defense, by the increased importance of voice in communication, by a slow degeneracy into pygmies, by a slow rise into sylphlike aliens, or any other arbitrary position you care to take. Having said that, perhaps they’ve considered this and made a deliberate effort not to judge what the cause is, as there’s so much evidence for every theory…

Edit: Or perhaps rather than rising into aliens, we’ve come from them. The Website at The End of the Universe points to the theory that we portray aliens as short on physical features because of the way newborns perceive their parents, as a prototypical human face. Why are all our physical features being eroded into this odd abhuman conformity? I’m sure one-time football commentator David Icke has an opinion on this…

In other news… I unexpectedly got given the day off today, so I lazed in bed until 1 p.m. reading Grendel by John Gardner. A nice short book, about Beowulf’s foe, the monster Grendel. With a nihilistic dragon, an animalistic mother and the structuralist humans endlessly encroaching and growing, Grendel is brought across as a casually violent existentialist, wanting to believe man’s myth-making but crippled by their initially hostile reaction to him and his fundamental loneliness. I’ve a feeling it’ll bear endless re-reading (especially if you’re an ex-english student made to study Beowulf in the original Anglo-Saxon, I suspect.)

Argue with me