Have you ever really thought about why we have eyebrows. In general, I tend to think about why hair grows in certain places and not others. No, I’m not being gross… but why do men have chest hair, for example? What does chest hair do for men, in 2018? Sure, there is probably some pre-historic reason – like warmth, but with the invention of clothes and heat, this is no longer necessary. That said, this whole eyebrow thing is a mystery. Sure, we would look silly without them, but they’re generally not necessary. I should say, we would look silly without them only because we’re used to having them.
If we look back hundreds of thousands of years, you will see a lot of similarities between prehistoric humans and modern-day humans. But there are some noticeable differences, especially in the skull and face. Thick, pronounced brow ridges are one of those key differences, and researchers have been working on figuring out what purpose they actually served, and why we no longer have them. After testing a number of theories, they think that they have come up with the answer.
In a new study that was published in Nature Ecology and Evolution, scientists explain how they have tested a number of different possible functions of the boney structures around the eyes of early hominins and they’ve discovered that their long-held theories are actually false. The ridges don’t appear to have been a structural reinforcement for the skull, nor do they aid in the mechanics of jaw movement, specifically biting. So, if they didn’t have much of a purpose, why do we have eyebrows now?
As humans evolved, the ability to convey subtle emotions became more and more important. Non-verbal communication is an extremely powerful tool (just ask my boyfriend) and even though you might not realize it, what your eyebrows say tells a lot about what you’re feeling. Also, you can ask my boyfriend about how my facial expressions give away everything that I’m thinking. So… thanks evolution! If I had larger eyebrow bones, this wouldn’t be an issue. I joke. But this kind of transformation over time has definitely given humans the edge.
I’m not saying that this is untrue, but I am having a hard time being convinced that’s why our eyebrows are smaller than they used to be. The study also suggests that eyebrows can be used to demonstrate dominance, empathy, and sympathy. Which I do think is true, but how does that directly relate to our eyebrows. I guess the part that I’m confused about is how we went from a society where we demonstrated dominance in a different way, to suddenly having the ability to solely demonstrate it through our facial expressions. Or is it the fact that we started using our face to express these emotions that made humans evolve this way?
I do find this kind of thing extremely fascinating. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not saying that I don’t agree. I’m just unclear as to how this leap was made. I am also extremely interested in how and why humans have evolved over the years, so I look forward to more research on these kinds of topics.