So says a recent BBC story:
The ability to throw at very high speeds is unique to humans.We can throw much faster than our closest living relative – the chimpanzee – which can only reach speeds of 20mph compared to 90mph that many professional athletes can reach.
After creditably recording the throwing movements of college basketball players, they fiured that changes in hominin anatomy two million years ago explain it:
“Success at hunting allowed our ancestors to become part-time carnivores, eating more calorie-rich meat and fat and dramatically improving the quality of their diet.
“This dietary change led to seismic shifts in our ancestors’ biology, allowing them to grow larger bodies, larger brains, and to have more children, and it also did interesting things to our social structure.
“We start to see the origins of divisions of labour around that time, where some would be hunting, others would be gathering new foods.
Another researcher, Susan Larson, cited in the article notes that it can’t be that simple; lots of things have to work together to hit the target, besides the ones studied. Athletes will likely agree.
Also, throwing may have been highly desirable for hunting, but not necessary.
Running prey over a cliff (as in Head Smashed In – Buffalo Jump, now commemorated as a park) was a conventional practice among indigenous peoples in Canada until fairly recent times. While the people had had weapons for thousands of years, the jump was an easier method for killing large bovine-type animals.
Theories about “what made us human” tend to feature atomistic, reductionist guesses like this one. = It was this. It was that. No, no, it was this other thing. No, you’re all wrong, it was this still other thing …
Actually, it was clearly a package. Probably a carefully packed package—that is, design not chance.
Hey, don’t complain. The last big idea we heard on throwing and human-ness was that throwing poop explain what made us human.