This conclusion is based on examinations of more than 200 crania — the part of the skull that holds the brain — contained in two collections, one amassed during the 19th century by a doctor, and one from an excavated cemetery dating back to the 16th through 17th centuries. While both sexes’ crania got bigger, women’s grew more, decreasing the gender gap, the researchers found.
There are multiple factors that could explain this change, according to lead researcher Ann Ross, an anthropologist at North Carolina State University. These include changes in nutrition, living conditions and genetic influences on the populations from which the skulls came — the earlier collection came from a more localized population, according to Ross.
Story: Wynne Parry, LiveScience | Photo: David Hunt, North Carolina State University