Quiz 1: Introductionto Physical Anthropology


Physical anthropology refers to the biological studies of human beings, with an emphasis on biological evolution and its relation to culture. Genetics is the field of science that deals with heredity and variation among different organisms. Anatomy is another branch of modern anthropology. It deals with the subject of soft tissues in various organisms, and their arrangement around the bones and teeth. Physical anthropologists answer many questions related to the survival and evolution of homo sapiens using the knowledge of variation, evolution, genetics, adaptation, anatomy and other fields. The study of anatomy is needed to understand how humans resemble many animals in terms of muscles and bones. Behavioral aspect is what makes humans different, however, the behavior of humans is also connected to many non-human species. Study of all these aspects and fields enables to understand that humans are a product of the same evolutionary forces experienced by other living organisms. Genetics is responsible for our critical understanding of modern evolution. Over the years, modern genomics has been successful in connecting various seemingly different species solely based on their nucleic acid sequence. Innate knowledge of an organism's anatomy can reveal the biomechanical relationships these fossils may have shared with their predecessors and future generations. Therefore, the integration of human evolution, non-human primate behavior, genetics, anatomy into physical anthropology helps one understand the evolution and emergence of human beings as unique beings despite facing common evolutionary forces.

Homo sapiens (humans) have a proximate relationship with evolution. From the study of various fossils, it is clear that humans are closely related to primates like apes, lemurs, and chimpanzees. It was also concluded that all the primates, including humans have evolved from a common ancestor. The study of human evolution is, therefore, important not only from a genealogical point of view but to understand the true nature of humans, their behavior and what it means to be human. The manner of evolution cuts straight into our nature and defines the humans. If biological modification of hominids by natural selection is true, then they might legitimately sum up that the natural selection has contributed to our identifiable human condition.  However, there also exists a morphological disparity among various groups that reveal a picture of diversity and time periods in between with nothing happening. A non-directional history also focuses the extent to, which the organisms are individually responsible for their own behaviors.

Hominins were species that belonged to the same evolutionary lineage that includes the Homo sapiens. Even though very little is known about these species, a set of fossilized footprints was discovered from, which it was interpreted that these animals used to have bipedal locomotion (walking on 2 legs, instead of 2). This indicates that the animals have a direct evolutionary connection to modern day humans, who are also bipeds. Such a connection can be important in studying more about life on early earth, its evolution and what it actually means to be human. Biologically speaking, the footprints made by a man on the moon and the fossilized footprints in the African savannah do not reveal more than the fact that both species walk on two feet, and that they might be evolutionarily related. The presence of human footprints has more to do with cultural evolution, rather than biological evolution. Culture is defined as a strategy by, which humans can adapt to a natural environment, in this case, the moon (which has an inhospitable environment). Cultural evolution has played a large part in the development of technology, language, organizations, and religion and all were important in the events leading up to the moon landing. Culture is not genetically transferred from one generation to another. Humans have a predisposition towards learning about behavior, perceptions, values, and reactions from other humans, and the process begins literally at birth. All these traits are shaped by culture and are influenced by biological factors in various degrees. This predisposition for culture has been the most critical component of human evolution. The common ancestors, those who share the characteristic with other primates might also have had this predisposition. Therefore, the organisms have learned about the culture from hominins or pre-hominin ancestors.