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Author Topic: Did cavemen have nail-clippers?  (Read 23002 times)

Ed Kry

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Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« on: 27/11/2011 18:01:02 »
Ed Kry  asked the Naked Scientists:
   
Hello Chris, et al,

I am a big fan for a couple of years as I need to listen to the podcasts to soften the curse of insomnia.

I have a question....how did early man (and woman) keep their toe nails and finger nails short.

They did not have clippers or emery boards as we do, did they chew them; or did they only grow so long and then stop growing?

A question only the Naked Scientists can answer.

thanks,

Ed, North Vancouver, BC, Canada

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 27/11/2011 18:01:02 by _system »


 

Offline CliffordK

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Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #1 on: 01/12/2011 02:12:03 »
"Cave Man", of course, is a very general term.  I would doubt that any kind of scissors would have been invented before the bronze age.  Even copper scissors, without the bronze alloys would be difficult to keep sharp.

Have you ever tried to trim your fingernails with a pocket knife?  It isn't an easy task.  Likewise, I would think that it would be difficult to do with a flint based knife.  Certainly it would be easy enough to make a stone fingernail file.

Since chewing on the fingernails seems to be a common grooming practice, I would think that it would be a long-term practice. 

I am seeing notes of some manicuring in the early Roman and Egyptian civilizations...  perhaps in conjunction with wealth.  It would be interesting to look at fingernails of the many "natural mummies" around the world.  Egyptian mummies would have to be excluded due to wealth, stature, and the likelihood of posing them after death during the embalming procedure.

I saw notes that Tollund Man, dating back to about 300 BC had manicured fingernails, but there are few specifics about it.
 

Offline Don_1

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Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #2 on: 01/12/2011 09:49:36 »
Our early ancestors would have used their fingernails on a daily basis, so probably the nails would have been kept in trim by this use. Today, our fingernails are largely redundant with tools such as knives, scissors and pliers used instead. As our early ancestors began to use tools such as sticks and flint, the fingernails would have begun to grow faster than everyday use would wear them down. Bitting and scrapping on rough rock would have dealt with this problem.

As for toenails, these too would have been subject to everyday wear. Early man did not wear the latest creation by Prada, he went barefoot. Evidence has been found of man sporting the latest fashion protection in footwear dating back 10k years, but it is certainly possible that animal skin foot protection could have been in use before this. With the advent of such footwear, wear on the toenails would have been greatly lessened. I don't know how supple Mr & Mrs Ugg (no pun intended) would have been, but I imagine that bitting one's own toenails might have proved a tad difficult. Whether Mr Ugg would bite Mrs Ugg's toenails and vice versa, (kinky buggers) to help solve the problem of overgrown toenails I don't know. A fresh made flint blade might have been used to slice off the overgrown nail and/or (as with the fingernails) rubbing with a piece of rough rock could also have helped.

It is worth considering that as Man's lifespan was quite short, foot problems could have been one of the reasons for this. Broken toenails becoming infected could have had very serious consequences, affecting the ability to hunt and forage.

The above is just my speculation. I don't know if this matter has been studied, but I guess the lack of fossilised nails wouldn't help in any such research, though evidence of a Lemur with nails (as opppose to claws) dating back 55m years has been found I don't when 'nails' first appear on Man.

 

Offline CliffordK

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Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #3 on: 01/12/2011 10:35:52 »
The above is just my speculation. I don't know if this matter has been studied, but I guess the lack of fossilised nails wouldn't help in any such research, though evidence of a Lemur with nails (as opppose to claws) dating back 55m years has been found I don't when 'nails' first appear on Man.

If many primates including Apes, Chimps, and Lemurs all have "nails" instead of claws...  then one would conclude that the common ancestor between humans and apes would also have had nails.  And, thus all hominids would have had nails.

Notes seem to indicate that some primates will chew on their nails, although perhaps leaving them long enough to still scratch with.

Undoubtedly even with wearing, one would get broken fingernails that would require some "touching up".

What about grooming in isolated non-westernized tribes?

I'll pass on chewing Don's toenails...  I can chew my own...   [^]
 

Offline Don_1

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Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #4 on: 01/12/2011 10:58:07 »

I'll pass on chewing Don's toenails...  I can chew my own...   [^]


DRAT! Look's like I'll have to invest a new pair of clippers, 'er indoors wont go anywhere near my plates of meat either.

You can chew your own toenails!!! You must be either very supple, or very hungry.
 

Offline cheryl j

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Re: Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #5 on: 24/12/2011 16:06:40 »
I read that the tendency to bite ones nails is genetic and runs in families, which I thought was interesting. I do it and my Dad did. No one else in the family. We are both left handed as well.
 

Offline nicephotog

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Re: Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #6 on: 03/01/2012 08:23:34 »
I've never used fingernail clippers in my life, i always bite  my nails "but" to get rid of the rough edges i hone them back on cement, someting i found i could also do well on granite rock!
 

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Re: Did cavemen have nail-clippers?
« Reply #6 on: 03/01/2012 08:23:34 »

 

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