Biological anthropology

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Biological anthropology, also known as physical anthropology, is a scientific discipline concerned with the biological and behavioral aspects of human beings, their related non-human primates and their extinct hominin ancestors.[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 application of evolutionary theory to understanding human morphology and behavior.

  • Paleoanthropology is the study of fossil evidence for human evolution, mainly using remains from extinct hominin and other primate species to determine the morphological and behavioral changes in the human lineage, as well as the environment in which human evolution occurred.
  • Human biology is an interdisciplinary field of biology, biological anthropology, nutrition and medicine, which concerns international, population-level perspectives on health, evolution, anatomy, physiology, molecular biology, neuroscience, and genetics.
  • Primatology is the study of non-human primate behavior, morphology, and genetics. Primatologists use phylogenetic methods to infer which traits humans share with other primates and which are human-specific adaptations.
  • Human behavioral ecology is the study of behavioral adaptations (foraging, reproduction, ontogeny) from the evolutionary and ecologic perspectives (see behavioral ecology). It focuses on human adaptive responses (physiological, developmental, genetic) to environmental stresses.
  • Bioarchaeology is the study of past human cultures through examination of human remains recovered in an archaeological context. The examined human remains usually are limited to bones but may include preserved soft tissue. Researchers in bioarchaeology combine the skill sets of human osteology, paleopathology, and archaeology, and often consider the cultural and mortuary context of the remains.
  • Paleopathology is the study of disease in antiquity. This study focuses not only on pathogenic conditions observable in bones or mummified soft tissue, but also on nutritional disorders, variation in stature or morphology of bones over time, evidence of physical trauma, or evidence of occupationally derived biomechanic stress.
  • Forensic anthropology is the application of biological anthropology within a legal setting. Forensic anthropologists often assist law enforcement, coroners, and medical examiners in identifying and analyzing human remains.

History

Franz Boas

Origins

Scientific physical anthropology began in the 18th century with the study of racial classification.[2] 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[3] those of the American polygenist Samuel George Morton (1799–1851).[4] The first prominent physical anthropologist, the German physician Johann Friedrich Blumenbach (1752–1840) of Göttingen, amassed a large collection of human skulls, from which he argued for the existence of a discrete set of races.[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 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.[8] However, scientific racism still persisted in biological anthropology, with prominent figures such as Earnest Hooton and Aleš Hrdlička promoting theories of racial superiority[9] and a European origin of modern humans[10].

"New Physical Anthropology"

In 1951 Sherwood Washburn, a former student of Hooton, introduced a "new physical anthropology."[11] 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.[12] 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 in the 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. ^ Marks, J. (1995) Human Biodiversity: Genes, Race, and History. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
  3. ^ Gail E. Husch. "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". Google Books. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  4. ^ "Exploring U.S. History The Debate Over Slavery, Excerpts from Samuel George Morton, Crania Americana". RRCHNM. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  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 Ireland10: 242–261. 1881. JSTOR 2841526.
  7. ^ "Rudolf Carl Virchow facts, information, pictures". Encyclopedia.com. Retrieved February 12, 2017. 
  8. ^ 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.
  9. ^ American Anthropological Association. "Eugenics and Physical Anthropology." 2007. August 7, 2007.
  10. ^ Bones of contention, controversies in the search for human origins, Roger Lewin, p. 89
  11. ^ Washburn, S. L. (1951) “The New Physical Anthropology”, Transactions of the New York Academy of Sciences, Series II, 13:298–304.
  12. ^ 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

  • Michael A. Little and Kenneth A.R. Kennedy, eds. Histories of American Physical Anthropology in the Twentieth Century, (Lexington Books; 2010); 259 pages; essays on the field from the late 19th to the late 20th century; topics include Sherwood L. Washburn (1911–2000) and the "new physical anthropology"
  • Brown, Ryan A and Armelagos, George, "Apportionment of Racial Diversity: A Review", Evolutionary Anthropology 10:34–40 2001
  • Modern Human Variation: Models of Classification
  • Redman, Samuel J. Bone Rooms: From Scientific Racism to Human Prehistory in Museums. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2016.

External links

  • American Association of Physical Anthropologists [1]
  • British Association of Biological Anthropologists and Osteoarchaeologists
  • Human Biology Association
  • Canadian Association for Physical Anthropology
  • Homo erectus and Homo neanderthalensis reconstructions – Electronic articles published by the Division of Anthropology, American Museum of Natural History.
  • Istituto Italiano di Antropologia
  • Journal of Anthropological Sciences – free full text review articles available
  • Mapping Transdisciplinarity in Anthropology pdf
  • Fundamental Theory of Human Sciences ppt
  • American Journal of Human Biology
  • Human Biology, The International Journal of Population Genetics and Anthropology
  • Economics and Human Biology
  • Laboratory for Human Biology Research at Northwestern University
  • The Program in Human Biology at Stanford
  • Society for the Study of Human Biology Symposium Series
  • Scottish Qualifications Authority
  • Society for Nordish Physical Anthropology
  • Academic Genealogical Tree of Physical Anthropologists
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