Evolutionary Anthropology Issues News and Reviews

Published by Wiley
Online ISSN: 1520-6505
Publications
Illustration of the possible phylogenetic relationships of the Petralona and Broken Hill fossils. Redrawn, with permission, from Stringer.9
Facial (A) and lateral (B) views of crania. Clockwise from top left: Homo erectus (replica, Sangiran, Java), heidelbergensis (Broken Hill, Zambia), sapiens (recent, Indonesia), and neanderthalensis (replica, La Ferrassie, France). All pictures © The Natural Histroy Museum London. [Color figure can be viewed in the online issue, which is available at wileyonlinelibrary.com.]
Article
The species Homo heidelbergensis is central to many discussions about recent human evolution. For some workers, it was the last common ancestor for the subsequent species Homo sapiens and Homo neanderthalensis; others regard it as only a European form, giving rise to the Neanderthals. Following the impact of recent genomic studies indicating hybridization between modern humans and both Neanderthals and "Denisovans", the status of these as separate taxa is now under discussion. Accordingly, clarifying the status of Homo heidelbergensis is fundamental to the debate about modern human origins.
 
Article
The answer to the proffered question, "What is a species?" is considered one of the fundamental issues of biological science, as well as one of the most polarizing and sometimes acrimonious problems. Dozens of species concepts have been defined, but none are universal for implementation across all taxa. Within the past thirty years, the ability to analyze DNA data has progressed to the point that multiple methodologies can be simultaneously applied to the same evolutionary questions. The use of restriction fragment length polymorphisms, microsatellites, and mitochondrial (mtDNA) and nuclear DNA (nucDNA) sequence data has unarguably changed how we look at diversity and intensified the concept debate through the proliferation of species descriptions. Over the past two decades, Madagascar's biodiversity has gone through a tremendous taxonomic expansion by the elevation of subspecies to species and through novel descriptions, especially within the nocturnal lemurs. With the tremendous continuous loss of habitat, exponential human population growth, and stochastic changes predicted over coming decades, elucidating the earth's biodiversity will never be more important than now. Here, we examine species concepts and their attendant criteria. We predict how technological advances will alter, improve and, we hope, fully consolidate the unity of thoughts related to this central topic of evolutionary biology and its numerous interconnected disciplines.
 
Article
The production of purposefully fractured stone tools with functional, sharp cutting edges is a uniquely derived hominin adaptation. In the long history of life on earth, only hominins have adopted this remarkably expedient and broadly effective technological strategy. In the paleontological record, flaked stone tools are irrefutable proof that hominins were present at a particular place and time. Flaked stone tools are found in contexts ranging from the Arctic to equatorial rainforests and on every continent except Antarctica. Paleolithic stone tools show complex patterns of variability, suggesting that they have been subject to the variable selective pressures that have shaped so many other aspects of hominin behavior and morphology. There is every reason to expect that insights gained from studying stone tools should provide vital and important information about the course of human evolution. And yet, one senses that archeological analyses of Paleolithic stone tools are not making as much of a contribution as they could to the major issues in human origins research.
 
Article
The Omo-Turkana Basin, including the hominin fossil sites around Lake Turkana and the sites along the lower reaches of the Omo River, has made and continues to make an important contribution to improving our murky understanding of human evolution. This review highlights the various ways the Omo-Turkana Basin fossil record has contributed to, and continues to challenge, interpretations of human evolution. Despite many diagrams that look suspiciously like comprehensive hypotheses about human evolutionary history, any sensible paleoanthropologist knows that the early hominin fossil record is too meager to do anything other than offer very provisional statements about hominin taxonomy and phylogeny. If history tells us anything, it is that we still have much to learn about the hominin clade. Thus, we summarize the current state of knowledge of the hominin species represented at the Omo-Turkana Basin sites. We then focus on three specific topics for which the fossil evidence is especially relevant: the origin and nature of Paranthropus; the origin and nature of early Homo; and the ongoing debate about whether the pattern of human evolution is more consistent with speciation by cladogenesis, with greater taxonomic diversity or with speciation by anagenetic transformation, resulting in less taxonomic diversity and a more linear interpretation of human evolutionary history.
 
Article
In 1871, Darwin famously opined, "In each great region of the world the living mammals are closely related to the extinct species of the same region. It is therefore probable that Africa was formerly inhabited by extinct apes closely allied to the gorilla and chimpanzee; and as these two species are now man's nearest allies, it is somewhat more probable that our early progenitors lived on the African continent than elsewhere." Although this quote is frequently recalled today, Darwin's next line is rarely acknowledged: "But it is useless to speculate on this subject, for an ape nearly as large as a man, namely the Dryopithecus of Lartet, which was closely allied to the anthropomorphous Hylobates, existed in Europe during the Upper Miocene period; and since so remote a period the earth has certainly undergone many great revolutions, and there has been ample time for migration on the largest scale."
 
Article
The peculiar mammalian fauna that inhabited Afro-Arabia during the Paleogene first came to the attention of the scientific community in the early part of the twentieth century, when Andrews1 and Schlosser2 published their landmark descriptions of fossil mammals from the Fayum Depression in northern Egypt. Their studies revealed a highly endemic assemblage of land mammals that included the first known Paleogene records of hyraxes, proboscideans, and anthropoid primates, but which lacked ancestors of many iconic mammalian lineages that are found in Africa today, such as rhinos, zebras, bovids, giraffes, and cats. Over the course of the last century, the Afro-Arabian Paleogene has yielded fossil remains of several other endemic mammalian lineages,3 as well as a diversity of prosimian primates,4 but we are only just beginning to understand how the continent's faunal composition came to be, through ancient processes such as the movement of tectonic plates, changes in climate and sea level, and early phylogenetic splits among the major groups of placental mammals. These processes, in turn, made possible chance dispersal events that were critical in determining the competitive landscape-and, indeed, the survival-of our earliest anthropoid ancestors. Newly discovered fossils indicate that the persistence and later diversification of Anthropoidea was not an inevitable result of the clade's competitive isolation or adaptive superiority, as has often been assumed, but rather was as much due to the combined influences of serendipitous geographic conditions, global cooling, and competition with a group of distantly related extinct strepsirrhines with anthropoid-like adaptations known as adapiforms. Many of the important details of this story would not be known, and could never have been predicted, without the fossil evidence that has recently been unearthed by field paleontologists. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 
Article
There were at least four waves of bow and arrow use in northern North America. These occurred at 12000, 4500, 2400, and after about 1300 years ago. But to understand the role of the bow and arrow in the north, one must begin in the eighteenth century, when the Russians first arrived in the Aleutian Islands. At that time, the Aleut were using both the atlatl and dart and the bow and arrow (Fig. ). This is significant for two particular and important reasons. First, there are few historic cases in which both technologies were used concurrently; second, the bow and arrow in the Aleutian Islands were used almost exclusively in warfare. The atlatl was a critical technology because the bow and arrow are useless for hunting sea mammals. One cannot launch an arrow from a kayak because it is too unstable and requires that both hands remain on a paddle. To use an atlatl, it is necessary only to stabilize the kayak with a paddle on one side and launch the atlatl dart with the opposite hand. The Aleut on the Alaska Peninsula did indeed use the bow and arrow to hunt caribou there. However, in the 1,400 km of the Aleutian Islands, there are no terrestrial mammals except humans and the bow was reserved almost exclusively for conflicts among them. The most significant event in the history of the bow and arrow is not its early introduction, but rather the Asian War Complex 1300 years ago, when the recurve and backed bows first entered the region, altering regional and hemispheric political dynamics forever. [Figure: see text].
 
Article
The bow more than doubled, likely tripled, the success of individuals bent on killing animal or human targets (Box ). The advent of this revolutionary technology generated different responses in western North America depending on subsistence and sociopolitical organization at the time of its arrival, roughly 2300 - 1300 B.P. Its effect was substantial in California and the Great Basin, particularly on group size, which in many places diminished as a consequence of the bow's reliability. The counter-intuitive result was to increase within group-relatedness enough to encourage intensification of plant resources, previously considered too costly. The bow rose to greatest direct economic importance with the arrival of the horse, and was put to most effective use by former Great Basin groups who maintained the family band system that had developed around intensive Great Basin plant procurement, adapting the same organization to a lifestyle centered on the equestrian pursuit of buffalo and warfare.
 
Article
As recently as the 1980s, archeologists focusing on prehistoric eastern North America paid little attention to intergroup conflict. Today the situation is quite different, as indicated by this Special Issue. Archeologists now face three principal challenges: to document the temporal and spatial distribution of evidence of conflict; to identify the cultural and environmental conditions associated with variation in the nature and frequency of warfare over long periods of time and large geographical areas; and to determine the extent to which intergroup tensions contributed to or resulted from changes in sociopolitical complexity, economic systems, and population size and distribution. We present data from habitation and mortuary sites in the Eastern Woodlands, notably the midcontinent, that touch on all three issues. Palisaded sites and victims of attacks indicate the intensity of conflicts varied over time and space. Centuries-long intervals of either high or low intergroup tensions can be attributed to an intensification or relaxation of pressure on resources that arose in several ways, such as changes in local population density; technological innovations, including subsistence practices; and the natural environment.
 
Article
This paper has several interconnected goals. First and most generally, we will review the project represented by the papers in this dedicated issue and the SAA Symposium (2012) on Social Complexity and the Bow. This project centers on the ever-stronger and broader theory testing now becoming feasible in archeology and anthropology, in this case exploiting the unique natural laboratory represented by what we refer to as the North American Neolithic transitions. Second, we will strive to synopsize the papers in this issue as opportunities to falsify two general theories of the cause of increases in social complexity associated with the North American Neolithic: warfare and social coercion theories.(1) We argue that, though much work remains to be done, the current evidence supports one of the central predictions of both these theories, that the local arrival of elite bow technology was a central driver of local transitions to increased social complexity. This conclusion, if ultimately verified, has profound implications for the possibility of general theories of history. Third, we will argue that several important details of this evidence falsify warfare theory and support (fail to falsify) social coercion theory (the authors' favored perspective). Moreover, several potential falsifications of social coercion theory are amenable to alternative interpretations, leading to new falsifiable predictions. Finally, we discuss how interactions with our colleagues in this project produced new insights into several details of the predictions of social coercion theory, improving our interpretative capacity.
 
Culture areas of the American Southwest showing locations of sites mentioned in the text.
NA26344, a lookout “fort” in Sycamore Basin on the Hohokam/Cohonia frontier. Photo courtsey of David R. Wilcox. [Color figure can be viewed in the online issue, which is available at wileyonlinelibrary.com.]
Article
The evolution of sociopolitical complexity, including heightened relations of cooperation and competition among large nonkin groups, has long been a central focus of anthropological research. Anthropologists suggest any number of variables that affect the waxing and waning of complexity and define the precise trajectories that groups take, including population density, subsistence strategies, warfare, the distribution of resources, and trade relationships. Changes in weaponry, here the introduction of the bow and arrow, can have profound implications for population aggregation and density, subsistence and settlement strategies, and access to resources, trade, and warfare.Bingham and Souza provide a general conceptual model for the relationship between complexity and the bow and arrow, arguing that this compound weapon system, whereby smaller projectiles travel at higher speed and are capable of hitting targets more accurately and at greater distances than hand-thrown darts, fundamentally favors the formation of larger groups because it allows for cost-effective means of dealing with conflicts of interest through social coercion, thereby dramatically transforming kin-based social relations. Here we consider the impacts the introduction of the bow and arrow had on sociopolitical complexity in the North American Southwest.
 
Article
This Special Issue of Evolutionary Anthropology grew out of a symposium at the 2012 Society for American Archaeology (SAA) meeting in Memphis, Tennessee (April 18-22). The goal of the symposium was to explore what we will argue is one of the most important and promising opportunities in the global archeological enterprise. In late prehistoric North America, the initial rise of cultures of strikingly enhanced complexity and the local introduction of a novel weapon technology, the bow, apparently correlate intimately in a diverse set of independent cases across the continent, as originally pointed out by Blitz. If this empirical relationship ultimately proves robust, it gives us an unprecedented opportunity to evaluate hypotheses for the causal processes producing social complexity and, by extension, to assess the possibility of a universal theory of history. The rise of comparably complex cultures was much more recent in North America than it was elsewhere and the resulting fresher archeological record is relatively well explored. These and other features make prehistoric North America a unique empirical environment. Together, the symposium and this issue have brought together outstanding investigators with both empirical and theoretical expertise. The strong cross-feeding and extended interactions between these investigators have given us all the opportunity to advance the promising exploration of what we call the North American Neolithic transitions. Our goal in this paper is to contextualize this issue.
 
Article
The middle Eocene Shanghuang fissure-fillings, located in southern Jiangsu Province in China near the coastal city of Shanghai (Fig. 1), contain a remarkably diverse array of fossil primates that provide a unique window into the complex role played by Asia during early primate evolution.1 Compared to contemporaneous localities in North America or Europe, the ancient primate community sampled at the Shanghuang fissure-fillings is unique in several ways. Although Shanghuang has some typical Eocene primates (Omomyidae and Adapoidea), it also contains the earliest known members of the Tarsiidae and Anthropoidea (Fig. 2), and some new taxa that are not as yet known from elsewhere. It exhibits a large number of primate species, at least 18, most of which are very small (15-500 g), including some of the smallest primates that have ever been recovered.2-4 © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 
Article
In the ancient American Southwest, use of the bow developed relatively rapidly among Pueblo people by the fifth century AD. This new technology replaced the millennia-old atlatl and dart weaponry system. Roughly 150 years later in the AD 600s, Pueblo socioeconomic organization began to evolve rapidly, as many groups adopted a much more sedentary life. Multiple factors converged to allow this sedentary pattern to emerge, but the role of the bow in this process has not been fully explored. In this paper, we trace the development of the bow and discuss its role as sedentism emerged and social changes occurred in ancient Puebloan society from the fifth through seventh centuries AD.
 
Article
Neolithic processes underlying the distribution of genetic diversity among European populations have been the subject of intense debate since the first genetic data became available. However, patterns observed in the current European gene pool are the outcome of Paleolithic and Neolithic processes, overlaid with four millennia of further developments. This observation encouraged paleogeneticists to contribute to the debate by directly comparing genetic variation from the ancient inhabitants of Europe to their contemporary counterparts. Pre-Neolithic and Neolithic paleogenetic data are becoming increasingly available for north and northwest European populations. Despite the numerous problems inherent in the paleogenetic approach, the accumulation of ancient DNA datasets offers new perspectives from which to interpret the interactions between hunter-gatherer and farming communities. In light of information emerging from diverse disciplines, including recent paleogenetic studies, the most plausible model explaining the movement of Neolithic pioneer groups in central Europe is that of leapfrog migration.
 
Article
Report on the second ESHE meeting in Bordeaux, September 2012.
 
Article
Today, scholars from numerous and highly diverse fields are not only addressing the question of what makes us human, but also seeking input from other disciplines to inform their answers to this fundamental issue. However, for the most part, evolutionary anthropologists are not particularly prominent in this discussion, or at least not acknowledged to be. Why is this the case? One reason may be that although evolutionary anthropologists are uniquely positioned to provide valuable insight on this subject, the responses from any one of us are likely to be as different as the research specializations and intellectual experiences that we bring to the table. Indeed, one would anticipate that a paleoanthropologist would not only have different views than a primatologist, geneticist, or behavioral ecologist, but from other paleoanthropologists as well. Yet if asked by a theologian, psychologist, or political scientist, and perhaps most importantly, by any curious person outside the walls of academia, do we have a response that most evolutionary anthropologists could agree on as reflecting our contributions to the understanding of being and becoming human? Our introductory textbooks usually begin with this fundamental question, yet seldom produce a concise answer. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 
Article
Human-environmental relationships have long been of interest to a variety of scientists, including ecologists, biologists, anthropologists, and many others. In anthropology, this interest was especially prevalent among cultural ecologists of the 1970s and earlier, who tended to explain culture as the result of techno-environmental constraints. More recently researchers have used historical ecology, an approach that focuses on the long-term dialectical relationship between humans and their environments, as well as long-term prehuman ecological datasets. An important contribution of anthropology to historical ecology is that anthropological datasets dealing with ethnohistory, traditional ecological knowledge, and human skeletal analysis, as well as archeological datasets on faunal and floral remains, artifacts, geochemistry, and stratigraphic analysis, provide a deep time perspective (across decades, centuries, and millennia) on the evolution of ecosystems and the place of people in those larger systems. Historical ecological data also have an applied component that can provide important information on the relative abundances of flora and fauna, changes in biogeography, alternations in food webs, landscape evolution, and much more.
 
Article
"Ecological demography arises from two facts: that the reproductive behavior of humans, like that of other species, is influenced by natural selection and that current fitness is the product of both genotype and environment. Here I review classic atheoretical and recent theoretical studies that contribute to this emerging field, exploring the extent to which human reproductive responses to ecological conditions, considered in their broadest context, follow the same selective rules as other species."
 
Article
Since Darwin's time, the question "what a species" has provoked fierce disputes and a tremendous number of publications, from short opinion papers to thick volumes. The debates covered fundamental philosophical questions, such as: Do species exist at all independently of a human observer or are they just a construct of the human mind to categorize nature's organismic diversity and serve as a semantic tool in human communication about biodiversity? or: Are species natural kinds (classes) or individuals that are "born" by speciation, change in course of time, and finally "die" when they go extinct or diverge into new species? Also included was the problem of species as taxa (taxonomic) versus species as products of the speciation process (evolutionary). More pragmatic issues arose, such as: How can we reliably delineate and delimitate species? The great interest in what a species is reflects the importance of "species" as fundamental units in most fields of biology, especially evolutionary biology, ecology, and conservation.
 
Article
Few things show the distinctiveness of human evolution research better than the Aquatic Ape Hypothesis (AAH). On one hand, we have "orthodox" research into human evolution, firmly based on land; on the other, we have the aquatic ape community, convinced not only that our ancestors went through an aquatic phase, but that the professional scientific community ignores their work and keeps it out of the mainstream. How many fields of science have two entirely parallel communities that essentially are hermetically sealed from each other?
 
Article
The idea that people went through an aquatic phase at some time in their evolutionary past is currently undergoing a popular resurgence (see Foley & Lahr). This idea has even started to gain some traction in more learned circles; the late paleoanthropologist Phillip Tobias wrote in support of aspects of it in an edited e-book and a conference on the topic held recently in London was endorsed by celebrities such as the television presenter Sir David Attenborough. Despite (or perhaps because of) the lack of interest within the academic community, advocates of the concept continue to fill the media (and blogosphere) with challenges to the "savannah hypothesis" of the origins of people and to bemoan the fact that their views are not taken seriously by mainstream academia.
 
Article
In 1989, Wynn and McGrew published an explicit comparison between Oldowan technology and what was then known of chimpanzee technology. They compared the range and variety of tools, adaptive role of tools, carrying distances, spatial cognition, manufacturing procedures, and modes of learning. They concluded that everything archeologists had reconstructed about the behavior of Oldowan hominins could be accommodated within the ape adaptive grade; that is, a paraphyletic group united by overall similarities in anatomy and, in this case, behavior. The only Oldowan activities that were almost unknown for modern apes were the long-distance transport of objects and direct competition with carnivores, which was implied by meat acquisition activities. "In its general features Oldowan culture was ape, not human. Nowhere in this picture need we posit elements such as language, extensive sharing, division of labor, or pair-bonded families, all of which are part of the baggage carried by the term human."
 
Article
Currently restricted to Southeast Asia and Africa, extant hominoids are the remnants of a group that was much more diverse during the Miocene. Apes initially diversified in Africa during the early Miocene, but by the middle Miocene they extended their geographical range into Eurasia, where they experienced an impressive evolutionary radiation. Understanding the role of Eurasian hominoids in the origin and evolution of the great-ape-and-human clade (Hominidae) is partly hampered by phylogenetic uncertainties, the scarcity and incompleteness of fossil remains, the current restricted diversity of the group, and pervasive homoplasy. Nevertheless, scientific knowledge of the Eurasian hominoid radiation has significantly improved during the last decade. In the case of Western Europe, this has been due to the discovery of new remains from the Vallès-Penedès Basin (Catalonia, Spain). Here, I review the fossil record of Vallès-Penedès apes and consider its implications. Although significant disagreements persist among scholars, some important lessons can be learned regarding the evolutionary history of the closest living relatives of humans. © 2012 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.
 
Article
As a geographic connection between Africa and the rest of Eurasia, the Arabian Peninsula occupies a central position in elucidating hominin evolution and dispersals. Arabia has been characterized by extreme environmental fluctuation in the Quaternary, with profound evolutionary and demographic consequences. Despite the importance of the region, Arabia remains understudied. Recent years, however, have seen major developments in environmental studies and archeology, revealing that the region contains important records that should play a significant role in future paleoanthropological narratives.(1-3) The emerging picture of Arabia suggests that numerous dispersals of hominin populations into the region occurred. Populations subsequently followed autochthonous trajectories, creating a distinctive regional archeological record. Debates continue on the respective roles of regional hominin extinctions and population continuity, with the latter suggesting adaptation to arid conditions.
 
Article
Bow and arrow technology spread across California between ∼AD 250 and 1200, first appearing in the intermountain deserts of the Great Basin and later spreading to the coast. We critically evaluate the available data for the initial spread in bow and arrow technology and examine its societal effects on the well-studied Northern Channel Islands off the coast of Southern California. The introduction of this technology to these islands between AD 650 and 900 appears to predate the appearance of hereditary inequality between AD 900 and 1300. We conclude, based on the available data, that this technology did not immediately trigger intergroup warfare. We argue that the introduction of the bow and arrow contributed to sociopolitical instabilities that were on the rise within the context of increasing population levels and unstable climatic conditions, which stimulated intergroup conflict and favored the development of hereditary inequality. Population aggregation and economic intensification did occur with the introduction of the bow and arrow. This observation is consistent with the hypothesis that social coercion via intra-group "law enforcement" contributed to changes in societal scale that ultimately resulted in larger groups that were favored in inter-group conflict. We argue that the interplay between intra-group "law enforcement" and inter-group warfare were both essential for the ultimate emergence of social inequality between AD 900 and 1300.
 
Article
Chance and serendipity have long played a role in the location of productive fossil localities by vertebrate paleontologists and paleoanthropologists. We offer an alternative approach, informed by methods borrowed from the geographic information sciences and using recent advances in computer science, to more efficiently predict where fossil localities might be found. Our model uses an artificial neural network (ANN) that is trained to recognize the spectral characteristics of known productive localities and other land cover classes, such as forest, wetlands, and scrubland, within a study area based on the analysis of remotely sensed (RS) imagery. Using these spectral signatures, the model then classifies other pixels throughout the study area. The results of the neural network classification can be examined and further manipulated within a geographic information systems (GIS) software package. While we have developed and tested this model on fossil mammal localities in deposits of Paleocene and Eocene age in the Great Divide Basin of southwestern Wyoming, a similar analytical approach can be easily applied to fossil-bearing sedimentary deposits of any age in any part of the world. We suggest that new analytical tools and methods of the geographic sciences, including remote sensing and geographic information systems, are poised to greatly enrich paleoanthropological investigations, and that these new methods should be embraced by field workers in the search for, and geospatial analysis of, fossil primates and hominins.
 
Article
Faunal evolution over the last 65 million years of earth's history was dominated by mammalian radiations, but much of this era is poorly represented in Africa. Mammals first appeared early in the Mesozoic, living alongside dinosaurs for millions of years, but it was not until the extinction of dinosaurs 65 myr ago that the first major explosion of mammalian taxa took place. The Cenozoic (65 Ma to Recent) witnessed repeated and dynamic events involving the radiation, evolution, and extinction of mammalian faunas. Two of these events, each marking the extinction of one diverse fauna and subsequent establishment of another equally diverse fauna, both involving advanced catarrhine primates, are recorded in sites in the Turkana Basin, despite the poorly represented record of Cenozoic faunas elsewhere in sub-Saharan Africa. The first of these events occurred at the Oligocene-Miocene transition and the other at the Miocene-Pliocene transition.
 
Top-cited authors
Kim Hill
  • Arizona State University
Ana Magdalena Hurtado
  • Arizona State University
Hillard Kaplan
  • University of New Mexico
Jane Lancaster
  • University of New Mexico
Robin Dunbar
  • University of Oxford