By David R. Begun (ed.)

A significant other to Paleoanthropology provides a compendium of readings from top students within the box that outline our present wisdom of the key discoveries and advancements in human origins and human evolution, tracing the fossil checklist from primate and hominid origins to the dispersal of recent people around the globe. Represents an available state of the art precis of the whole box of paleoanthropology, Read more...

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While the earth was considered very old, and life on earth accepted as extending back many ages, it was also generally accepted that human history was relatively short. This conviction was based upon historical records from ancient civilizations, such as the Greeks and the Romans, but texts from India and China also generally supported the idea that humans appeared in the world less than ten thousand years ago. For many scholars this was consistent with the roughly six- to seven-thousand-year biblical chronology.

Human prehistory had been extended into the geologic past and there was great interest in determining the race and the culture of these Ice Age humans. Hitherto, few skeletal remains had been discovered of early humans, and that became an important focus of research. But it was also exactly at this time that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution was published, and this added an entirely new dimension to the study of human origins. EARLY THEORIES OF HUMAN ORIGINS While the majority of people during the early 19th century accepted the biblical account of the creation of the first humans, the question of how life arose and whether species could change or were fixed became increasingly important issues as naturalists and paleontologists learned more about the history of life on earth.

In Chapter 28, Harvati surveys the fossil evidence of the Neandertals. As suggested by Hublin, Harvati describes the features of the Neandertals as accumulating gradually in Europe, with definitive Neandertals appearing around 200 ka, and “classic” or full-blown Neandertals in the Late Pleistocene, after about 70 ka. The Neandertals are a European and western Asian phenomenon, which may make their importance in paleoanthropology somewhat exaggerated. Most researchers in paleoanthropology are also of European origin, or were trained by researchers with ties to Europe, such that the central role that Neandertals occupy could be interpreted as a bit of Eurocentrism.

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