|Cranium of Australopithecus sediba.
Photo credit: Wits University
Anthropology is the study of humankind from biological, cultural, and social
viewpoints. Herodotus may perhaps be called the father of anthropology,
but it was not until the 14th or 15th centuries AD, with the mercantilist
expansions of the Old World into new regions, that contact with other peoples
kindled a scientific interest in the subject. In the modern age there are
two main disciplines, physical anthropology and cultural anthropology, the
latter embracing social anthropology.
|Various branches of anthropology (red) and their
links with allied sciences (yellow)
Physical anthropology is the study of humankind as a biological species,
its past evolution and its contemporary physical characteristics. In its
study of prehistoric man it has many links with archaeology, the difference
being that anthropology is concerned with the remains of human fossils while archaeology is concerned with the remains of human material culture.
The physical anthropologist studies also the difference between races and
groups, relying to a great extent on techniques of anthropometry and, more
recently, genetic studies.
Cultural anthropology is divided into several categories. Ethnography is
the study of the culture of a single group, either primitive or civilized.
Fieldwork is the key to ethnographical studies, which are themselves the
key to cultural anthropology. Ethnology is the comparative study of the
cultures of two or more groups. Cultural anthropology is also concerned
with cultures of the past, and the borderline in this case between it and
archaeology is vague. Social anthropology is concerned primarily with social
relationships and their significance and consequences in primitive societies.
In recent years its field has been extended to cover more civilized societies.
Any member of a species of
the genus Australopithecus. Australopithecines
lived during the Pliocene and early Pleistocene geological epochs in Africa (i.e., about 4.2–1.2 million years ago).
Australopithecines and humans are hominids.
One or more species of australopithecines probably were our ancestors.
|Australopithecus afarensis skull
A race of primitive man named for Cro-Magnon, France, dating from the Upper
Paleolithic and usually regarded as Aurignacian, though possibly more recent.
Coming later than Neanderthal Man, Cro-Magnon
Man was dilichocephalic (see cephalic
index) with a high forehead and a large brain capacity, his face rather
short and wide. H was probably around 1.7 meters tall, powerfully muscled
Any primate in the human family, Hominidae.
It includes all members of the genus Homo of which Homo sapiens is the only living representative. Australopithecus is an
Hominoid is the collective term for hominids and apes. Together with monkeys, hominoids constitute the anthropoid primates.
The genus to which humans belong. Modern humans
are classified as Homo sapiens sapiens.
A species of early human dating from about 1.5 million to 0.2 million years ago. The "Ape Man of Java" was the first early human fossil to be found, late in the 19th century. Both it and Peking Man, another early discovery, represent more advanced forms of Homo erectus than older fossils found more recently in Africa.
A species of early human discovered by Louis Leakey in 1964 in the Olduvai
Gorge, East Africa. Its fossil remains have been estimated to be between
1.8 and 1.2 million years old, being contemporary with Australopithecus.
The development of hand and skull is much more like that of modern humans.
Leakey, Louis Seymour Bazett (1903–1972)
Kenyan paleoanthropologist and archeologist. Leakey and his wife Mary (1913–1972),
conducted important research on human evolution. Many of their most important
discoveries were made in Olduvai Gorge, Tanzania. Here, they unearthed (1959)
a hominid fossil Zinjanthropus or Australopithecus bosei about 1.75 million years old, and found
(1964) the remains of Homo habilis – thought to be a direct ancestor of Homo sapiens sapiens.
Leakey proposed the "Out of Africa" model of human development. After his
death, Mary and their son, Richard Leakey,
continued to make important finds.
Leakey, Richard Erskine Frere (1944–)
Kenyan paleoanthropologist and archeologist, son of Mary and Louis Leakey.
In 1972, at Lake Turkana, Kenya, Leakey discovered a 1.9 million-year-old
skull of Homo habilis. Other
discoveries include a Homo erectus skeleton about 1.6 million years old. After serving as head of the Kenyan
National Museum, Leakey became director of the Kenyan Wildlife Service (1988–94).
A member of the most well known species of late archaic Homo
sapiens. Neanderthals lived mostly in Europe and the Near East from
150,000 years ago or even earlier until at sometime after 28,000 years ago.
There is an on-going debate as to whether they should be considered Homo
sapiens or a distinct but related species. If they were members of our
species, they were a different variety or race (Homo sapiens neanderthalensis).
On the other hand, if they were different enough to be a distinct species,
they should be considered to be Homo neanderthalensis.
• anthropoid apes • bipedalism • intelligence, nature of • primate