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Chapter 2 : Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary

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Abstract:

The earliest evidence of hominids, that is, animals ancestral to modern humans and not closely related to other monkeys and apes, is found in Africa. The name Homo habilis, or "handy man," is based on the fact that altered stones and animal remains have been found with the fossil bones. Researchers imagine that H. habilis lived at the edge of shallow lakes and in crude rock shelters. When the populations of H. erectus left Africa, some of their parasites went with them—but only those that could be transmitted directly from person to person. But as H. erectus encountered new environments with new kinds of animals, they were subjected to sources of new parasites; and with an increase in the number of humans living in more restricted geographical environments, the probability of large-scale infections was enhanced. Development of techniques and practices for agriculture and animal husbandry progressed step by step in sequential fashion. It may not be accidental that the first known and highly organized religions arose coincident with the agricultural revolution. Researchers have little precise information about the parasitic diseases that afflicted their ancestors more than 10,000 years ago. The crowd diseases of humans, such as smallpox, measles, pertussis (whooping cough), tuberculosis, and influenza, were initially derived from very similar ancestral infections of domesticated animals.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 22-40. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch2
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Figures

Image of Figure 2.1
Figure 2.1

Hollywood's view of Australopithecus as seen in the movie 2001:A Space Odyssey. © Turner Entertainment Co. Licensed by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 22-40. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.2
Figure 2.2

Australopithecus. (A) Reconstruction of Mr. & Mrs. Lucy. (B) Skull of Lucy. (Panel A courtesy of Ken Mowbray, American Museum of Natural History. Panel B © 2005 Bone Clones.)

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 22-40. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.3
Figure 2.3

Interpretations of Homo neanderthalis based on fossil skull and bones. The skull (A) was used in the 1920s by Frederick Blaschke to reconstruct Neanderthalman (B), in which Neanderthal man was a brutish figure. Although later discredited, the stooped and apelike reconstruction was used in a 1953 B-grade movie(C) to create a monsterlike Neanderthal man. (A) © 2005 Bone Clones, Inc. (B) Photo by Tom McHugh/Photo Researchers, Inc. © 2005 Photo Researchers, Inc. (C) Courtesy of Popcorn Posters.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 22-40. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch2
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Image of Figure 2.4
Figure 2.4

(A) Growth of the human population for the last 500,000 years. If the Old Stone Age (Paleolithic) were in scale it would reach 18 feet to the left. (B) Log-log plot of the human population over the last million years.

Citation: Sherman I. 2006. Plagues, the Price of Being Sedentary, p 22-40. In The Power of Plagues. ASM Press, Washington, DC. doi: 10.1128/9781555816483.ch2
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