The Vikings are known to be one of the roughest towns in history, with their bushy beards, horned helmets, and wooden ships. The truth is that the subject of the horns seems to be little more than a myth, but that of the beard is somewhat clearer.
Actually, growing facial hair was very frequent in most ancient civilizations, not only in those of these Nordic barbarians. Nowadays beard care has become almost as common as hair care. There are many products designed to make it grow stronger and brighter. And, in fact, its only purpose is purely ornamental, which is why it is so important that it has a good appearance.
But what about its application in the past? If we go back to the first human beings, why did men keep their hair on their faces and women did not? The answer to this question is not clear. However, a new study, published in Integrative Organismal Biology , sheds some light on this, giving its own theory about the reason behind the growth of the beard.
The beard as a shield
As crazy as it may seem, studies prior to this have shown that much of the human anatomy is destined to give and take blows.
From the shape of the fists to the contour of the face, each piece was placed to give hominids the ability to fight with fists without falling at the first blow. Could it be that the beard also had a similar evolutionary function?
This is the question asked by a team of scientists from the University of Utah . In order to respond, they had two options. An unethical one, consisting of putting a group of volunteers to fight with their fists, and a rather more civilized one, which involved the use of a “replica of the human face” .
For this they used a false jaw , made with epoxy resin , which they later covered with sheepskin . Once all this was ready, it only remained to hit different models, with more or less hair, and check what the result was.
Interesting but inconclusive results
During their experiments, these scientists verified that the replicas with hair could absorb 37% more energy than shaved ones. Furthermore, 45% ended up “unharmed”, while those without hair ended up torn in most cases.
This, according to the study authors, seems to be due to the fact that the force of the blow is distributed over a larger area and, in addition, each individual hair absorbs part of the energy of the punch .
Despite the clarifying results, these scientists point to two reasons why more research would be necessary. On the one hand, they mention a study that concluded that bearded mixed martial arts fighters are no more successful than shaves.
On the other hand, they recall that the “hair” of sheep is very thick, so its effects could only be comparable to those of people with especially thick and thick beards . Perhaps that is precisely why the fighters' beards did not seem to make a difference.
Finally, these researchers maintain that the beard, beyond this possible evolutionary advantage , must also have had some disadvantage. If not, the women could have kept it too. Only our male ancestors did it, who got involved more frequently in fights to mark territory or look for food. If only they did it, at general levels, it would not be so advantageous.
Luckily, today we are not battling each other down the street, or at least we shouldn't. Of course, if we did and this turned out to be true, the hipsters would have everything to win.
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