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Switch to Forum Live View Spirituality and African Hair Origins
7 years ago  ::  Jan 19, 2008 - 4:55PM #1
Truth27
Posts: 523
Greetings,

I would like to discuss the spiritual significance of humanity's origins in Africa.  Specifically, I would like to discuss the significance of the evolution of kinky/nappy/wooly hair.  Why do Africans and Melanesians alone have kinky/nappy/wooly hair?  Why did this trait evolve?  Or, given that modern humanity originated in Africa, spending at least two thirds of it's existance there, a better questiion might be, why did much of humanity LOSE the kinky/nappy/wooly hair trait while Africans and Melanesians retained it?  African hair has been and continues to present a spiritual challenge in terms of fitting into the traditional world beauty standard.  This is particularlly acute for black women (see Imus's 2007 comments on this topic) in that they are expected to have long flowing hair while their male counterparts can cut their hair and be done with it.  Kinky/nappy/wooly hair is the antithesis of straight in that it actually grows in extremely tight coils that easily break off when manipulated/combed such that short hair is typical.  Hence it's appearance seems opposite to what is expected of most hair.

So why does this unique hair texture exist?  Again, most evidence suggests that humanity originated in sub-Saharan Africa.  Here the intense heat caused pre-humans to diverge from many other mammals by losing hair on most of the body except for the head and auxilliary regions.  It was during this early period that the originally pale skin found beneath the fur of most mammals (including early pre-humans) grew darker for  pre-humans as they lost their hair.  It was also during this somewhat vulnerable transition that kinky/nappy/wooly hair is likely to have originated.  This is because it likely took many many generations for dark skin to develop fully in the pre-human population.  Meanwhile, something had to occur quickly/simulatneously in terms of protecting the skin from the harsh equatorial sun.  This is where African hair comes in.  It turns out that, as suggested in a paper by Iyengar (1998), the straight human hair follicle may act as a modified fiber optic conduit that somehow enables UV light to pass into the skin.  This had devistating consequences for the light skin of the pre-humans as they transitioned towards dark skin.  Thus the hair was modified such that it became comprised of tiny coils. In this way, that light could not pass into the skin as easily. 

Eventually though, the skin grew dark enough to protect against UV on it's own.  Nevertheless, kinky/nappy/wooly hair remains among Africans as a remnant of an important transition in the pre-human past.  One that we still bare the mark of today; our lack of body hair relative to other mammals.  Now the question becomes, why did most non-Africans LOSE this trait?......

Note: the spiritual significance of this story (from my perspective) will be elucidated in time.  Feel free to comment on whatever spiritual significance YOU get out of it as well. :-)

(to be continued)
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 12:29PM #2
Truth27
Posts: 523
So again, the question is, why did most humans LOSE the African hair trait once their ancestors left the continent and populated the world?  It is likely that this has something to do with Iyengar's (1998) discovery.  It has been established that the penetration of UV light into the skin is necessary to allow the body to make vitamin D, a vital ingredient in bone development and formation.  While vitamin D/UV light is in high abundance at the equator (in Africa), it is scarce at high altitudes (the north) due to lower amounts of sunlight.  Due to this, those modern human ancestors who left Africa ~60,000 years ago and who migrated to central Eurasia and East Asia were initially in some trouble.  Their dark African skin and kinky/nappy/wooly hair protected AGAINST UV.  Yet UV was exactly what they needed in these new regions.  Thus, over many many generations, the genetic makeup of these populations changed such that their skin no longer produced the melanin that made their ancestors' skin dark.  Instead, their skin became almost translucent in order to allow UV light to pass through so that vitamin D could be made. 

The period described in the previous post suggested that kinky/nappy/wooly hair developed during the African transition from light skin (beneath 'fur' that was gradually becomming sparse - 1,500,000 years ago) to dark skin.  This was because the transition was a somewhat slow one.  Thus other changes occurred in the pre-humans' hair texture such that they helped to protect the skin from UV (see previous post).  In a similar way, the transition from dark to light skin among the ancestors of those modern humans who migrated from Africa to Northern Eurasia and East Asia ~60,000 years ago was slow.  Thus other changes such as that of hair texture (from kinky/nappy/wooly to straight) occured so that UV light could better penetrate into the skin (as in Iyengar 1998).  Hence, people who have significant amounts of ancestry from Asia and Europe within the past 60,000 years (including the Native Americans) are marked with light skin and straight hair relative to Africans.

The reason why Melanesians retained the African trait of 60,000+ years ago (dark skin and kinky/nappy/wooly hair) is that, instead of stopping in North Eurasia and/or East Asia, their ancestors headed straight for other regions similar to Africa in climate and UV exposure (ie Melanesia).  Thus there was no cause for them to change in either hair texture or skin color.  Of course, due to genetic drift, their other genes resemble those of other non-Africans (ie those whose ancestors left Africa 60,000+ years ago).  But when the exact genes determining hair texture and skin color are found, it is very likely that the genes of Melanesians will be identical to Africans for these traits (hair texture and skin color). 

I have explained why 'whites' and 'asians' have straight hair (and light skin).  Now for the tricky ones; equatorial populations with straight hair such as those in India, Australia, and Native America.  As stated, the running hypothesis described here is that kinky/nappy/wooly hair evolved during a vulnerable period in which the skin of pre-humanity was light (due to having been beneath fur like that of other mammals) and was slowing evolving towards becoming dark.  It was during this time that kinky/nappy/wooly hair texture served as an added protection against UV.  The trait remained after the period in which it was critical (~1,500,000 years ago) because there was no reason for it not to (there was no change in the environment such that straight hair would be needed).  Thus, kinky/nappy/wooly hair is NOT necessarily essential near the equator as long as dark skin exists or is soon forthcomming.   

Along these lines, lets return to the scenario of the first modern humans who left Africa 60,000 years ago.  They were dark skinned with kinky/nappy/wooly hair.  Those who migrated to places near the equator (such as India, Melanesia, and Australia) retained this trait initially.  However, unlike Africa and Melanesia, which remained  insulated from straight haired intermixture by the Sahara and the Ocean respectively, India had no natural barriers from such interaction with regards to central Eurasia.  Hence the genetics of India reflect wave after wave of migration and intermixture with Eurasian groups.  Indians retained dark skin (especially in the south) because it was the main essential protection against UV.  However, many other African traits, including kinky/nappy/wooly hair, were lost.

(to be continued)
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 1:23PM #3
Truth27
Posts: 523
As for Australia, where most indigenous people have dark skin and straight hair, there is evidence that the original inhabitants of this region had dark skin and kinky/nappy/wooly hair (like the Melanesians who once shared a land bridge with them until 8,000 years ago).  This is elucidated here:

http://www.sydneyline.com/Pygmies%20Extinction.htm

In addition, certain genetic evidence supports Birdsell's trihybrid hypothesis (see the site address above) which suggests that Australasia was populated first by African-appearing people (ie dark skin, kinky/nappy/wooly hair).  In addition, East Asians appeared ~2.000 years ago (although most of them went east to Polynesia).  Surprisingly, people from India also made an appearance ~4,000 years ago.  This is supported by the findings of scientific studies such as the following:

'Peopling of the Sahul: mtDNA Variation in Aboriginal Australian and Papua New Guinean Populations' by Alan Redd and Mark Stoneking (see p 824).

It is unlikely that the Australian gene pool was significantly impacted by the East Asian immigrants of ~2-3,000 years ago in that the genetics do not support this idea.  Rather, the transition to straight hair by indigenous Australians is more likely to have resulted from admixture following the migration of contiental Indians into the region ~4,000 years ago (long after the land bridge between Melanesia and Australia had closed).  This is supported by genetic evidence as can be seen in the above paper.  There is evidence that corresponding to the arrival of the contiental Indians, the archaeology of the Australians changed and the dingo (Australian dog) was introduced.  There is evidence that these changes resulted from interactions with contiental Indians. 

Hence, to reiterate, indigenous Australians were originally African in appearance (dark skin, kinky hair) and then attained straighter hair (an perhaps larger stature) through intermixture with continental Indians ~4,000 years ago.


(to be continued)
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 1:36PM #4
Truth27
Posts: 523
Finally, one must explain equatorial Native American groups such as the Mayans, who have deep brown skin but straight hair.  First it is worth reiterating that kinky/nappy/wooly hair is NOT essential for protection against UV light.  Rather, it complements dark skin in this process.  It is also notable that the East Asian population (from which Native Americans derived ~15,000 years ago upon crossing the Baring Strait) expresses slightly more melanin than their European counterparts due perhaps to a need to protect against excessive UV reflected from the abundant snow in North East Asia.  Hence the Native Americans were not starting virtually from scratch melanin-wise like the pre-humans of ~1,500,000 years ago (see previous posts) or like some Northerm Europeans.  In this sense they may not have had as long a transition period such that kinky/nappy/wooly hair was necessary to pick up the slack.  Furthermore, the gradual migration towards the equator facilitated a gradual accumulation of dark skin that differed from the relatively sudden change that occurred in Africa as pre-humans lost their hair ~1,500,000 years ago.  Hence it was a different situation that accorded different results.

Peace.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 2:02PM #5
Truth27
Posts: 523
Spiritual Significance:

I believe that the above information is spiritually significant for several reasons.  First, on a personal level, it was derived after 4 long years of education in Molecular Anthropology (human evolutionary genetics) in which I was all but dissertated but opted for a Masters rather than a Ph.D. due, in part, to philosophical differences with my advisor.  I am greatful for my education, and am now exploring ways to better get these ideas across to the public by studying for a Ph.D. in science education.  Ultimately I would like to write a book on this topic.  Hence, to the extent that a difficult journey in the educative process can be seen as spiritual, I arrived at this information through a lot of spiritual blood sweat and tears. 

Next, I'd say that this information is spiritual because it speaks to truths that go beyond our current Northern biased notions of beauty.  It goes to our very origins of our species.  The kinky/nappy/wooly hair of Africans (and Melanesians) marks an event in the distant distant past (~1,500,000 years ago) without which we'd be walking around with a full coat of fur on our bodies (we wouldn't be who we are).  There is spiritual significance to who we are as a species.  Every step of the way that we were formed out of the 'clay' of our animal past (and present) is sacred. 

Finally, this evidence with regards to African hair flies in the face of the current assumption that the 'original' hair form of modern African humans (between ~180,000 and ~60,000 years ago) was straight.  In actuality, due to a change that occured ~1,500,000 years ago, there was a time in which all anatomically modern humans expressed sub-Saharan African hair.  This is something to understand and think about.  It is profound to me given the contrast with today (where only ~10% of the human population expresses this trait).  In this sense, kinky/nappy/wooly hair shouldn't be vilified for not being 'manageable'.  Instead, people expressing this hair form should be encouraged to 'show it off' in short fros or long locs (or something in between) as a sacred reminder of our African/Unified past.  In this sense, a sincere embrace of natural African hair by humanity would be a step forward in the form of the global spirituality that I see evolving and forming.  One rooted in the rational pursuit of the truths of the natural world.  One that draws profound lessons from these truths.  One which, as far as anatomically modern human existance is concerned, is firmly rooted in a perspective derived from the landmass currently called AFRICA.  Hence the title of this thread.

Ashe.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 2:32PM #6
Truth27
Posts: 523
Any comments/questions are welcomed.....What do people think about the brutal ways in which those who were colonized and/or enslaved are STILL spiritually and psychologically (if not physically) assulted in the media due to the fact that we 'lost' the political battle for 'power'?  I saw a commercial recently in which a white woman with straight hair was done up as though she had essentially an afro and this was labeled 'damaged' hair.  Has anyone thought about or noticed the effect of this struggle on young minorities?  Particularly females?  I saw the last Miss Universe pagent on TV.  The only woman with a short fro (or a natural at all) was from Tanzania.  She was BEAUTIFUL.  But somehow I sensed that she didn't have a chance given that she didn't have a weave AND was she dark skinned (it was actually a pleasant surprise that she made it as far as she did--kudos to Tanzania!).  Is anyone else slightly saddened by the way that beauty is manufactured in a way that leaves most people out?  Why are we so materialistic anyway?  I think it has to do with the corporatization of the world.  Unbridled capitalism is viscious!  When will it change?

Peace.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 9:21PM #7
Luvjust4U
Posts: 823
[QUOTE=Truth27;225813]

So why does this unique hair texture exist?  Again, most evidence suggests that humanity originated in sub-Saharan Africa.  Here the intense heat caused pre-humans to diverge from many other mammals by losing hair on most of the body except for the head and auxilliary regions.  It was during this early period that the originally pale skin found beneath the fur of most mammals (including early pre-humans) grew darker for  pre-humans as they lost their hair.  It was also during this somewhat vulnerable transition that kinky/nappy/wooly hair is likely to have originated.  This is because it likely took many many generations for dark skin to develop fully in the pre-human population.  Meanwhile, something had to occur quickly/simulatneously in terms of protecting the skin from the harsh equatorial sun.  This is where African hair comes in.  It turns out that, as suggested in a paper by Iyengar (1998), the straight human hair follicle may act as a modified fiber optic conduit that somehow enables UV light to pass into the skin.  This had devistating consequences for the light skin of the pre-humans as they transitioned towards dark skin.  Thus the hair was modified such that it became comprised of tiny coils. In this way, that light could not pass into the skin as easily. 

Eventually though, the skin grew dark enough to protect against UV on it's own.  Nevertheless, kinky/nappy/wooly hair remains among Africans as a remnant of an important transition in the pre-human past.  One that we still bare the mark of today; our lack of body hair relative to other mammals.  Now the question becomes, why did most non-Africans LOSE this trait?......

Note: the spiritual significance of this story (from my perspective) will be elucidated in time.  Feel free to comment on whatever spiritual significance YOU get out of it as well. :-)

(to be continued)[/QUOTE]


Greetings Truth 27.  Glad to see you still posting on Belief-net. 

To the topic. Your points are interesting and contradicting.  Personally, upfront, I believe hair  texture has nothing at all to do with our inner spirituality and character.   Hairstyles or voluntary head shaving or designs can be chosen to reflect moods or tribal beliefs etc. Those are voluntary such as the choice to have dread locks or a picked out Afro or fade.  Those are personal choices. However, I can understand the pressure one can feel if a society engages in psychological warfare to create self hatred in those who have naturally kinky, curly and woolly hair texture.  That is a form of spiritual warfare if one becomes dissatisfied and embarrassed with their natural physical being thus causing their to engage in activities that cause one to become artificial looking. Bleaching, straightening, and weaving done by Africans to imitate the hair texture of  Europeans who society accepts as "fair", such can be mentally unhealthy for a community.  If those things are done out of shame for ones natural assets, that can be a spiritual problem even to the point of hiding a mental problem of self hating.

The human body is as a house for our greater being, the  human spirit.  I don't believe we are the result of millions of years of evolution with dark brown skin being a replacement for pale fur covered skin.  Melanin is a natural genetic feature people are born with.  However, considering your explanation of subhuman ape like creatures having thick  nappy kinky fur, one has to ask why do monkeys, apes, orangutans, chimpanzees and other primates have straight hair?

Honestly, everyone in so called "higher education" promotes the science fiction humans came from apes and chimpanzees.  Not one monkey ape species has kinky nappy woolly fur, but they all have straight stringy fur blonde to reddish, black to brown. So, when you hear them calling apes their ancestors, that's their delusion, not ours or any other person who believes the human race is a created Species.  Thin lips, big ears, straight fur, pale skin and a flat posterior with narrow hips are chimpanzee monkey  features, but why would we transpose that on humans who have the similar features?   Spirituality in it's true context keeps the mind from taking that low road, because I personally believe human beings are CREATED in the Image of GOD ALMIGHTY.  All physical bodies are as temporal vehicles for the higher spirit of life.  A truly advanced society has to educate it's members based on this high road and higher consciousness.

This is why the "west" or northerner educational systems are proving to be inferior to the Eastern ones. Inventions that destroy the earth were avoided because of respect for living in unity with nature .  The west is engaged in deluded thinking of trying to advance beyond the natural to exist by artificial. Beliefs of being descendants of chimps and apes has been intellectually crippling to this society. Fake plants, fake this fake that, artificial food, artificial flavor etc. all manifest because people seem estranged from nature and natural things. Thus, self destruction is always reflected in their movies, their greed and their wastefulness. Africans who buy into lies are no different.  Look at all the tattooing, body piercing, implants etc. many engage in as well as high suicide and drug abuse rates.  The infection of self hate inflicted on any segment of society spreads to every segment. I would be interested in watching you develop a PhD dissertation on this area on the more broad effects on society as a whole.  I have no doubt African American women have issues, but "straightening hair" has been going on for centuries.  I don't think it's wrong to seek cosmetic improvements for certain appearance issues caused by health conditions such as having to wear a wig.  The issue is that it's not healthy for anyone to be made to or influenced to despise their natural features such as hair texture.  Hair texture has nothing to do with spirituality. Rather kinky or straight, a good person will always be a good person regardless of hair texture.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 10:22PM #8
Truth27
Posts: 523
Greetings Luv,

Thanks for your reply.

"However, considering your explanation of subhuman ape like creatures having thick nappy kinky fur, one has to ask why do monkeys, apes, orangutans, chimpanzees and other primates have straight hair?"

You misunderstand me here.  I acknowledge that apes/monkeys and most mammals (aside from sheep who were bred that way by humans) do NOT have kinky/nappy/wooly hair.  What I'm trying to say is that the human lineage started out with straight hair ~5,000,000 years ago.  But it was problematic because it was in the form of fur covering their entire bodies almost and it was HOT in the savanah plains that they were living in.  So their skin gradually began to restructure itself starting ~1,500,000 years ago when they became particularlly active in the savanah, such that each generation, the only babies to survive were those who hand increasingly less hair (as well as an increasing capacity to sweat).  During this TRANSITION, in which these babies were loosing more and more hair each generation, their skin didn't automatically turn dark enough to protect them from the sun.  It was a gradual process of darkening over the generations.  It was during this TRANSITION (~1,500,000 years ago) that each generation, the hair on these babie's bodies, which was getting sparser and sparser, started to gradually curl tighter and tighter to prevent UV light from passing through the hair shaft straight into their relatively pale skin.  Thus, those who survived to adulthood and had more children like themselves were those with the LEAST amount of body hair on most of their bodies barring the curliest/kinkiest/nappiest/wooliest of hair on their heads (to protect the most important part of the body from the sun/like a cap), and underarm/groins (to signal puberty).
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 10:41PM #9
Truth27
Posts: 523
"The issue is that it's not healthy for anyone to be made to or influenced to despise their natural features such as hair texture."

I agree!


"Hair texture has nothing to do with spirituality. Rather kinky or straight, a good person will always be a good person regardless of hair texture."

I agree here too to an extent.  However, I'd just say that dark skinned black women with naturally kinky/nappy/wooly hair are coming to terms with the fact that they just don't fit the typical beauty norm.  This is becoming (and to an extent has always been) somewhat normal.  This self acceptance doesn't often happen overnight though.  It often requires several years, perhaps even decades, for black women, having been brainwashed by society and the corporate media like everyone else, to come to this realization.  To me this realization IS spiritual.  It takes a lot of inner strength to consistently resist the pull of a society that, every time you turn on the TV or pick up a newspaper/magazine or try to attract a mate, tells you that you are 'the opposite of beautiful'.  To me that strength is spiritually derived.  I'm not saying that straight haired people are inherently less spiritual than black women just because of this.  In fact, as you say, there are good people and not so good people out there.  Ultimately hair has only a little to do with it.  But I'd say that in terms of self confidence and esteem, black Western-influenced women who have been through the 'hair fire' (the struggle with their self esteem revolving around the struggle with their hair texture) and 'won' (accepted who they naturally are) have an added chance of coming out as pure gold!!! :-)  In other words, when one is truly comfortable and compassionate with themselves, they are more likely to be more loving and accepting towards others.

Peace.
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7 years ago  ::  Jan 22, 2008 - 10:54PM #10
Truth27
Posts: 523
P.S. - It is my hope that the insight and context that my research (see above) can provide for helping humanity get more grounded in the facts in terms of its analysis of its' physicality (ie human physical traits like skin color and hair texture) will ultimately help all people to overcome the burden of trying, just for the sake of appearances, to be the extreme 'opposite' of the way that nature made them.  Perhaps such information will be just what some people need in order to make that step towards decreased materialism and increased spirituality.
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