Biological anthropology

Biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, is a scientific discipline concerned with the biological and behavioral aspects of human beings, their extinct hominin ancestors, and related non-human primates, particularly from an evolutionary perspective.[1] It is a subfield of anthropology that provides a biological perspective to the systematic study of human beings.

Branches

As a subfield of anthropology, biological anthropology itself is further divided into several branches. All branches are united in their common orientation and/or application of evolutionary theory to understanding human biology and behavior.

History

Origins

Biological Anthropology looks different today than it did even twenty years ago. The name is even relatively new, having been 'physical anthropology' for over a century, with some practitioners still applying that term. [2] Biological anthropologists look back to the work of Charles Darwin as a major foundation for what they do today. However, if one traces the intellectual genealogy and the culture back to physical anthropology's beginnings--going further back than the existence of much of what we know now as the hominin fossil record--then history focuses in on the field's interest in human biological variation. Some editors, see below, have rooted the field even deeper than formal science.

Attempts to study and classify human beings as living organisms date back to ancient Greece. The Greek philosopher Plato (c. 428–c. 347 BC) placed humans on the scala naturae, which included all things, from inanimate objects at the bottom to deities at the top.[3] This became the main system through which scholars thought about nature for the next roughly 2,000 years.[3] Plato's student Aristotle (c. 384–322 BC) observed in his History of Animals that human beings are the only animals to walk upright[3] and argued, in line with his teleological view of nature, that humans have buttocks and no tails in order to give them a cushy place to sit when they are tired of standing.[3] He explained regional variations in human features as the result of different climates.[3] He also wrote about physiognomy, an idea derived from writings in the Hippocratic Corpus.[3] Scientific physical anthropology began in the 17th to 18th centuries with the study of racial classification (Georgius Hornius, François Bernier, Carl Linnaeus, Johann Friedrich Blumenbach).[4]

The first prominent physical anthropologist, the German physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840) of Göttingen, amassed a large collection of human skulls (Decas craniorum, published during 1790–1828), from which he argued for the division of humankind into five major races (termed Caucasian, Mongolian, Aethiopian, Malayan and American).[5] In the 19th century, French physical anthropologists, led by Paul Broca (1824-1880), focused on craniometry[6] while the German tradition, led by Rudolf Virchow (1821–1902), emphasized the influence of environment and disease upon the human body.[7]

In the 1830s and 1840s, physical anthropology was prominent in the debate about slavery, with the scientific, monogenist works of the British abolitionist James Cowles Prichard (1786–1848) opposing[8] those of the American polygenist Samuel George Morton (1799–1851).[9]

In the late 19th century, German-American anthropologist Franz Boas (1858-1942) strongly impacted biological anthropology by emphasizing the influence of culture and experience on the human form. His research showed that head shape was malleable to environmental and nutritional factors rather than a stable "racial" trait.[10] However, scientific racism still persisted in biological anthropology, with prominent figures such as Earnest Hooton and Aleš Hrdlička promoting theories of racial superiority[11] and a European origin of modern humans.[12]

"New Physical Anthropology"

In 1951 Sherwood Washburn, a former student of Hooton, introduced a "new physical anthropology."[13] He changed the focus from racial typology to concentrate upon the study of human evolution, moving away from classification towards evolutionary process. Anthropology expanded to include paleoanthropology and primatology.[14] The 20th century also saw the modern synthesis in biology: the reconciling of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and Gregor Mendel’s research on heredity. Advances in the understanding of the molecular structure of DNA and the development of chronological dating methods opened doors to understanding human variation, both past and present, more accurately and in much greater detail.

Notable biological anthropologists

See also

References

  1. ^ Jurmain, R, et al (2015), Introduction to Physical Anthropology, Belmont, CA: Cengage Learning.
  2. ^ Ellison, Peter T. (2018). "The evolution of physical anthropology". American Journal of Physical Anthropology. 165.4: 615-625. 2018.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Spencer, Frank (1997). "Aristotle (384–322 BC)". In Spencer, Frank. History of Physical Anthropology. 1. New York City, New York and London, England: Garland Publishing. pp. 107–108. ISBN 978-0-8153-0490-6.
  4. ^ Marks, J. (1995) Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  5. ^ "The Blumenbach Skull Collection at the Centre of Anatomy, University Medical Centre Göttingen". University of Goettingen. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  6. ^ "Memoir of Paul Broca". The Journal of the Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland. 10: 242–261. 1881. JSTOR 2841526.
  7. ^ "Rudolf Carl Virchow facts, information, pictures". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  8. ^ Gail E. Husch (2000). Something Coming: Apocalyptic Expectation and Mid-nineteenth-century American painting - by Gail E. Husch - ...the same inward and mental nature is to be recognized in all the races of men. ISBN 9781584650065. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  9. ^ "Exploring U.S. History The Debate Over Slavery, Excerpts from Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana". RRCHNM. Retrieved February 12, 2017.
  10. ^ Moore, Jerry D. (2009). "Franz Boas: Culture in Context". Visions of Culture: an Introduction to Anthropological Theories and Theorists. Walnut Creek, California: Altamira. pp. 33–46.
  11. ^ American Anthropological Association. "Eugenics and Physical Anthropology." 2007. August 7, 2007.
  12. ^ Bones of contention, controversies in the search for human origins, Roger Lewin, p. 89
  13. ^ Washburn, S. L. (1951) “The New Physical Anthropology”, Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, Series II, 13:298–304.
  14. ^ Haraway, D. (1988) “Remodelling the Human Way of Life: Sherwood Washburn and the New Physical Anthropology, 1950–1980”, in Bones, Bodies, Behavior: Essays on Biological Anthropology, of the History of Anthropology, v.5, G. Stocking, ed., Madison, Wisc., University of Wisconsin Press, pp. 205–259.

Further reading

External links

Anthropologist

An anthropologist is a person engaged in the practice of anthropology. Anthropology is the study of aspects of humans within past and present societies. Social anthropology, cultural anthropology, and philosophical anthropology study the norms and values of societies. Linguistic anthropology studies how language affects social life, while economic anthropology studies human economic behavior. Biological (physical), forensic, and medical anthropology study the biological development of humans, the application of biological anthropology in a legal setting, and the study of diseases and their impacts on humans over time, respectively.

Anthropometry

Anthropometry (from Greek ἄνθρωπος anthropos, 'human', and μέτρον metron, 'measure') refers to the measurement of the human individual. An early tool of physical anthropology, it has been used for identification, for the purposes of understanding human physical variation, in paleoanthropology and in various attempts to correlate physical with racial and psychological traits. Anthropometry involves the systematic measurement of the physical properties of the human body, primarily dimensional descriptors of body size and shape.Today, anthropometry plays an important role in industrial design, clothing design, ergonomics and architecture where statistical data about the distribution of body dimensions in the population are used to optimize products. Changes in lifestyles, nutrition, and ethnic composition of populations lead to changes in the distribution of body dimensions (e.g. the rise in obesity) and require regular updating of anthropometric data collections.

Canine fossa

In the musculoskeletal anatomy of the human head and neck, lateral to the incisive fossa is a depression called the canine fossa. It is larger and deeper than the comparable incisive fossa, and is separated from it by a vertical ridge, the canine eminence, corresponding to the socket of the canine tooth; the canine fossa gives origin to the levator anguli oris.

Caucasian race

The Caucasian race (also Caucasoid or Europid) is a grouping of human beings historically regarded as a biological taxon, which, depending on which of the historical race classifications used, have usually included some or all of the ancient and modern populations of Europe, Western Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, North Africa, and the Horn of Africa.First introduced in the 1780s by members of the Göttingen School of History, the term denoted one of three purported major races of humankind (Caucasoid, Mongoloid, Negroid). In biological anthropology, Caucasoid has been used as an umbrella term for phenotypically similar groups from these different regions, with a focus on skeletal anatomy, and especially cranial morphology, over skin tone. Ancient and modern "Caucasoid" populations were thus held to have ranged in complexion from white to dark brown. Since the second half of the 20th century, physical anthropologists have moved away from a typological understanding of human biological diversity towards a genomic and population-based perspective, and have tended to understand race as a social classification of humans based on phenotype and ancestry as well as cultural factors, as the concept is also understood in the social sciences. Although Caucasian / Caucasoid and their counterparts Negroid and Mongoloid have been used less frequently as a biological classification in forensic anthropology (where it is sometimes used as a way to identify the ancestry of human remains based on interpretations of osteological measurements), the terms remain in use by some anthropologists.In the United States, the root term Caucasian has also often been used in a different, societal context as a synonym for white or of European, Middle Eastern, or North African ancestry. Its usage in American English has been criticized.

Cognitive anthropology

Cognitive anthropology is an approach within cultural anthropology and biological anthropology in which scholars seek to explain patterns of shared knowledge, cultural innovation, and transmission over time and space using the methods and theories of the cognitive sciences (especially experimental psychology and cognitive psychology) often through close collaboration with historians, ethnographers, archaeologists, linguists, musicologists and other specialists engaged in the description and interpretation of cultural forms. Cognitive anthropology is concerned with what people from different groups know and how that implicit knowledge, in the sense of what they think subconsciously, changes the way people perceive and relate to the world around them.

Colin Groves

Colin Peter Groves (24 June 1942 – 30 November 2017) was Professor of Biological Anthropology at the Australian National University in Canberra, Australia.Born in England, Groves completed a Bachelor of Science at University College London in 1963, and a Doctor of Philosophy at the Royal Free Hospital School of Medicine in 1966. From 1966 to 1973, he was a Postdoctoral Researcher and Teaching Fellow at the University of California, Berkeley, Queen Elizabeth College and the University of Cambridge. He emigrated to Australia in 1973 and joined the Australian National University, where he was promoted to full Professor in 2000 and remained Emeritus Professor until his death.Professor Groves' research interests included human evolution, primates, mammalian taxonomy, skeletal analysis, biological anthropology, ethnobiology, cryptozoology, and biogeography. He conducted extensive fieldwork in Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, India, Iran, China, Indonesia, Sri Lanka and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Along with the Czech biologist Professor Vratislav Mazák, Groves was the describer of Homo ergaster. Groves also wrote Primate Taxonomy published by the Smithsonian Institution Press in 2001, and Ungulate Taxonomy, co-authored by Peter Grubb (2011, Johns Hopkins Press).

He was an active member of the Australian Skeptics and had many published skeptical papers, as well as research papers covering his other research interests. He also conducted regular debates with creationists and anti-evolutionists.

Endocast

An endocast is the internal cast of a hollow object, often referring to the cranial vault in the study of brain development in humans and other organisms. Endocasts can be artificially made for examining the properties of a hollow, inaccessible space, or they may occur naturally through fossilization.

Human biology

Human Biology is an interdisciplinary area of study that examines humans through the influences and interplay of many diverse fields such as genetics, evolution, physiology, anatomy, epidemiology, anthropology, ecology, nutrition, population genetics and sociocultural influences. It is closely related to biological anthropology and other biological fields tying in various aspects of human functionality. It wasn't until the 20th Century when well known biogerontologist, Raymond Pearl author of the Journal Human Biology, phrased the term Human Biology in a way to describe a separate subsection apart from Biology.

Human physical appearance

Human physical appearance is the outward phenotype or look of human beings.

There are infinite variations in human phenotypes, though society reduces the variability to distinct categories. Physical appearance of humans, in particular those attributes which are regarded as important for physical attractiveness, are believed by anthropologists to significantly affect the development of personality and social relations. Humans are acutely sensitive to their physical appearance. Some differences in human appearance are genetic, others are the result of age, lifestyle or disease, and many are the result of personal adornment.

Some people have linked some differences, with ethnicity, such as skeletal shape, prognathism or elongated stride. Different cultures place different degrees of emphasis on physical appearance and its importance to social status and other phenomena.

Maceration (bone)

Maceration is a bone preparation technique whereby a clean skeleton is obtained from a vertebrate carcass by leaving it to decompose inside a closed container at near-constant temperature. This may be done as part of a forensic investigation, as a recovered body is too badly decomposed for a meaningful autopsy, but with enough flesh or skin remaining as to obscure macroscopically visible evidence, such as cut-marks. In most cases, maceration is done on the carcass of an animal for educational purposes.

Mankind Quarterly

Mankind Quarterly is a peer-reviewed academic journal that has been described as a "cornerstone of the scientific racism establishment" and a "white supremacist journal", "scientific racism's keepers of the flame", a journal with a "racist orientation" and an "infamous racist journal", and a "journal of 'scientific racism'". It covers physical and cultural anthropology, including human evolution, intelligence, ethnography, linguistics, mythology, archaeology, etc., and aims to unify anthropology with biology. It is published by the Ulster Institute for Social Research in London.

Osteology

Osteology is the scientific study of bones, practiced by osteologists. A subdiscipline of anatomy, anthropology, and archaeology, osteology is a detailed study of the structure of bones, skeletal elements, teeth, microbone morphology, function, disease, pathology, the process of ossification (from cartilaginous molds), the resistance and hardness of bones (biophysics), etc. often used by scientists with identification of vertebrate remains with regard to age, death, sex, growth, and development and can be used in a biocultural context. Osteologists frequently work in the public and private sector as consultants for museums, scientists for research laboratories, scientists for medical investigations and/or for companies producing osteological reproductions in an academic context.

Osteology and osteologists should not be confused with the holistic practice of medicine known as osteopathy and its practitioners, osteopaths.

Paleoanthropology

Paleoanthropology or paleo-anthropology is a branch of archaeology with a human focus, which seeks to understand the early development of anatomically modern humans, a process known as hominization, through the reconstruction of evolutionary kinship lines within the family Hominidae, working from biological evidence (such as petrified skeletal remains, bone fragments, footprints) and cultural evidence (such as stone tools, artifacts, and settlement localities).The field draws from and combines paleontology, biological anthropology, and cultural anthropology. As technologies and methods advance, genetics plays an ever-increasing role, in particular to examine and compare DNA structure as a vital tool of research of the evolutionary kinship lines of related species and genera.

Prognathism

Prognathism is a positional relationship of the mandible or maxilla to the skeletal base where either of the jaws protrudes beyond a predetermined imaginary line in the coronal plane of the skull. In general dentistry, oral and maxillofacial surgery, and orthodontics, this is assessed clinically or radiographically (cephalometrics). The word prognathism derives from Greek πρό (pro, meaning "forward") and γνάθος (gnáthos, "jaw"). One or more types of prognathism can result in the common condition of malocclusion, in which an individual's top teeth and lower teeth do not align properly.

Recent human evolution

Recent human evolution refers to evolutionary adaptation and selection and genetic drift within anatomically modern human populations, since their separation and dispersal in the Middle Paleolithic.

Following the peopling of Africa some 130,000 years ago, and the recent Out-of-Africa expansion some 70,000 to 50,000 years ago, some sub-populations of H. sapiens have been essentially isolated for tens of thousands of years prior to the early modern Age of Discovery.

Combined with archaic admixture, this has resulted in significant genetic variation, which in some instances has been shown to be the result of directional selection taking place over the past 15,000 years, i.e. significantly later than possible archaic admixture events.

Selection pressures were especially severe for populations affected by the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) in Eurasia, and for sedentary farming populations since the Neolithic.

Adaptations have also been found in modern populations living in extreme climatic conditions such as the Arctic and the Tibetan Plateau,

as well as immunological adaptations such as resistance against brain disease in populations practicing mortuary cannibalism.

Secular variation

The secular variation of a time series is its long-term non-periodic variation (see Decomposition of time series). Whether something is perceived as a secular variation or not depends on the available timescale: a secular variation over a time scale of centuries may be part of a periodic variation over a time scale of millions of years. Natural quantities often have both periodic and secular variations. Secular variation is sometimes called secular trend or secular drift when the emphasis is on a linear long-term trend.

The term secular variation is used wherever time series are applicable in economics, operations research, biological anthropology, astronomy (particularly celestial mechanics) such as VSOP (planets) etc.

Sinodonty and Sundadonty

In anthropology, Sinodonty and Sundadonty are two patterns of features widely found in the dentitions of different populations in East Asia. These two patterns were identified by anthropologist Christy G. Turner II as being within the greater "Mongoloid dental complex". Sundadonty is regarded as having a more generalised, proto-Mongoloid morphology and having a longer ancestry than its offspring, Sinodonty.

The combining forms Sino- and Sunda- refer to China and Sundaland, respectively, while -dont refers to teeth.

USC Jane Goodall Research Center

The USC Jane Goodall Research Center is a part of the department of Anthropology at the University of Southern California. It is co-directed by professors of anthropology Craig Stanford, Chris Boehm, Nayuta Yamashita, and Roberto Delgado.

The center was established in 1991 with the joint appointment of Jane Goodall as Distinguished Emeritus Professor in Anthropology and Occupational Science. The Center offers USC students the chance to study in Gombe.

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