The Science Of Human Origins And Evolution

Whether they study Ice Age cave paintings, chimpanzee DNA, or the bones of the first tiny squirrel-like primates from 60 million years ago, scientists are asking the same questions: Where did we come from and how did we get here?

Although the search for human origins draws upon research from many scientific disciplines, it is mainly kept to the field of anthropology. Broadly defined as "the study of humans," anthropology can encompass any scientific pursuit as long as it has a human focus.

Biological anthropology (also called physical anthropology) is a field within anthropology, and all of its subfields contribute directly or indirectly to the understanding of human origins and evolution. These subfields include scientific investigations of the genetics, behavior, biology, ecology, and evolution of humans and nonhuman primates that fall under disciplines like "paleoanthropology," which is the study of human evolution (Figure 1.1), and "primatology," which is the study of living primate behavior and ecology.

Biological anthropology does not stand alone in the search for human origins. The other anthropological fields of archaeology and cultural anthropology are also crucial to the understanding of human origins and evolution.

Because paleoanthropology reconstructs the ancient past, it is a historical science. Thus, it is difficult to make the same types of conclusions that chemists or cell biologists can make from eye-witnessing experiments. In paleoanthropology, "Mother Nature" has performed the experiments and thousands or millions of years later, scientists describe

Figure 1.1 A group of young paleoanthropologists excavate an early Pleistocene site at Koobi Fora, Kenya. By systematically digging even layers, they have taken down the hillside to find bones and stone tools. The sediment is placed into bowls and then carried to a sieving station where it is shaken through a fine mesh so that even the tiniest teeth, bones, and even fossil seeds can be recovered. The wall on the side of the excavation will be useful for viewing the ancient sediments and for determining how the site was formed and how the artifacts were buried. Photograph by Holly Dunsworth.

Figure 1.1 A group of young paleoanthropologists excavate an early Pleistocene site at Koobi Fora, Kenya. By systematically digging even layers, they have taken down the hillside to find bones and stone tools. The sediment is placed into bowls and then carried to a sieving station where it is shaken through a fine mesh so that even the tiniest teeth, bones, and even fossil seeds can be recovered. The wall on the side of the excavation will be useful for viewing the ancient sediments and for determining how the site was formed and how the artifacts were buried. Photograph by Holly Dunsworth.

the ancient experiments sight-unseen and explain the results based on the evidence that survived.

0 0

Responses

  • Bisirat
    How does paleoanthropology excavate human evolution?
    2 years ago

Post a comment