A Companion to Paleoanthropology by David R. Begun (ed.)

By David R. Begun (ed.)

A better half to Paleoanthropology offers a compendium of readings from best students within the box that outline our present wisdom of the key discoveries and advancements in human origins and human evolution, tracing the fossil list from primate and hominid origins to the dispersal of contemporary people around the globe. Represents an available cutting-edge precis of the full box of paleoanthropology, Read more...

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Extra resources for A Companion to Paleoanthropology

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Chapters 28 and 29 take over where Chapter 27 leaves off, reviewing the evidence for the origins of the Neandertals and modern humans, respectively. 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.

Chapter 24 covers the other “australopith,” the robusts, or Paranthropus. Wood and Schroer provide a summary of the lively history of debate about Paranthropus, which for many years was synonymized with Australopithecus (and still is, according to some). Paranthropus is a separate phenomenon with its own fascinating part in the story of human evolution, whether or not it is a separate genus. It is for this reason that I wanted it to have its own chapter. Paranthropus has variously been interpreted as an Australopithecus on steroids, an interesting dead-end, and even a tool-using close relative of Homo.

However, Darwin recognized the controversial implications of his theory for human origins and that it might upset many people’s religious sensibilities. Thus, Darwin did not directly address the question of human evolution until 1871 when he published The Descent of Man. Here he discussed the anatomical and physiological similarities between apes and humans in order to support his view that humans had evolved from an ape-like ancestor, probably in Africa. He identified factors that could have led our ape ancestors to become bipedal, arguing that once the hands were freed this would allow the development of tool-use, which in turn would contribute to morphological changes to the structure of the face and jaw, all leading to a more human anatomy.

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