Most People seem to agree that we cannot and do not want to go back to the past, but the reason given is often wrong; that time has moved on and what was can never be again. The truth is that we cannot go back to what we never left. Our home is the earth, our time the Pleistocene Ice Ages. The past is the formula for our being.
(Paul Shepard)

Friday, 7 October 2011

Barefoot living

Hi, I am barefoot right now I live barefoot I walk barefoot and occasionally run barefoot. I have shoes with heels that I wear when I have to, they make me feel clumsy. As a concession to modern glass and rubbish I wear terra plana shoes as my general wear and merrel trail gloves to work out and trail run in.
As a quick aside I used to run in Asics running shoes, I used ton run a lot and would trail run in my local woods. I found I would "roll" my shoes and twist my ankles a fair bit. Since going to trail gloves I find that never happens and I run with a great deal more confidence and sensitivity. When (for some reason) I went back to the Asics through the woods I immediately started to roll my ankles again.
I believe the hype. we are bipeds, have been before we were even the genus Homo, support of any description is not how our bodies are designed to walk and as walking is fundamental and frequent I strongly suspect that the evidence of modern heels being deleterious to health to be true.
I believe the hype but.......... as with everything "paleo" there is a whole lot of shit about this being talked out there.
Prediction; we are going to see a lot of injuries from barefoot running in the next few years and there will be a swing back to supported footwear. I say this for the enormously obvious reason that humans are equally not adapted to run on asphalt or concrete.
Humans may or may not be adapted for long distance running, I would say not, to my knowledge there is one group of Hunters who use persistence hunting and then it is only one technique of hunting among many. I would also say that the bushmen of the kalahari were forced into the kalahari relatively recently by African and European ghastliness, persistence hunting may be a response to living in such a harsh and desperate environment. Much of the "born to run" hypothesis is based on horticulturalist native Americans and Africans. Most studied hunter gatherers are said to run little while they are all reported to travel long distances by foot (or sledge/canoe in the arctic).
This is perhaps an argument for a different time I will say that according to fossil trackway and ethnographic sources it would seem that walking and interval (fast) running would be good activities to conduct barefooted. Protracted long distance running on man-made surfaces is a product of modern culture and it may or may not be beneficial to use minimalist footwear. It would I think be erroneous to describe such activities as innately human without a very strong evidence base.
For the gait of barefoot running I use a mid strike as heel striking is simply too painful to countenance. Much of the premise of Barefoot running is based on this and it seems likely and logical to adjust the stride length and footfall to account for it.

However I have started to notice that people are question heel striking in barefoot walking.This to me is startling but perhaps demonstrates the old Taoist thing about the "sage confusing the people".

My daughter walks like the girls in the film it is a strong image but I don't look to her for guidance on digital dexterity or balance because she is not developed and co-ordinated yet. Indeed it is natural for toddlers to walk like that but is considered a sign of problems if the don't develop a heel toe gate.

I truly admire the barefoot sensei and love his work, I really wish I lived in the U.S. for I would sell up and go learn from him, but on the footfall.....the archaeological evidence says heel-toe is the natural human gait. Indeed it is so for all plantigrade animals. I fox walk when I hunt but not when I'm going from place to place, barefoot or minimalist you walk quieter anyway your feet naturally start finding their way in the woods, they become incredibly sensitive and as a consequence so the rest follows.
Indeed spearthrowing barefooted is a fantastic experience you really feel the changes in pressure across the foot, so much so that throwing in boots becomes a very awkward experience. We really do throw with our feet.
There are scores and scores of fossil trackways across the world from millions of years ago to the Mesolithic. Ice agers wearing moccasins, aborigines sprinting, Mesolithic children playing around their parents a neanderthal sliding down a slope. Human gait is well documented in the fossil record and so is the development of Hominid bipedality. It is no mystery. More than the heel toe what I notice about the fossil footprints is that Tom Brown (the tracker) was right when he talked about the rolling ,sprawling gait of the modern urbanite. Look how "tight" the Aborigine trackway is in the above picture.
The barefooters a right,I'm sure, your joints back balance life will all be improved by moving as you are supposed to, thing is our bodies and the archaeology show us we are already going barefoot all we need to do is throw away our shoes.
(sources on request)
Aboriginal trackways
Mick Dodge
Mesolithic British tracks

Spell checker isn't working so sorry for any mistakes.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Hunting strategies with the spearthrower

I'm trying to workout how to combine my modern-Paleo life blog with the spearthrower blog. I'm not much of a writer and can't really spread myself over two blogs. I kinda think that we should be aiming for a unity anyway. I can't workout how to do it but here is something that reaches across.
H/G prey selection, the spearthrower is effective enough that prey can be left uneaten if it does not meet H/G nutritional requirements. Australian aborigines on killing kangaroos inspect the abdomen for visceral fat. If the animal does not have a high enough fat content it is left.
I can't find the source which is not so good but it's from Melissa Mcewan's blog here which is well worth a look round
To me this suggests that even in as hard an environment as Australia the spearthrower gives enough reliability in hunting to discard sub-standard food sources.
The main item of interest is this extract
it details some interpretations of Magdalenian (spearthrowers all) kill and butchery sites. Interesting to note that they could and did target specific animals. I seem to remember the same of the stellmoor kill site with interpretation of hits suggesting no wild haphazard shooting but a deliberating aiming to kill with every shot.
It is tempting to interpret the results as showing larger social groups separating during the summer to follow the herds (as the cresswell crags site is interpreted) before meeting up for larger communal kills which can then very happily be cached in the frozen ground or snowbanks. Fatty animals would be essential for winter survival in the ice age to prevent rabbit starvation.
I'm not sure about the vegetable requirements cited in the paper. I would expect some processing remains (stones etc) if they were eating grass seeds. Berries of course would be most welcome. It is odd that there is this "need" for ice age Europeans to have eaten some vegetable matter, if there's no evidence of it then quite frankly it doesn't need to be talked about. I suspect that they ate some amount of vegetable matter in summer/autumn but with all that fatty meat it is doubtful that they would have"needed" to.The chart above shows the fat content of reindeer through the year.
It was interesting to see some of the other animals (presumably) hunted by spearthrower including bear, BEAR! someone had rocks!