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Anthropology. A discipline of infinite curiosity about human beings. From Greek anthropos for “man”
and logos for “study.” It is concerned with all varieties of people throughout the world and of all periods.
A focus on typical characteristics of human groups—how and why populations and their characteristics
have varied around the world and throughout the ages—is what mainly distinguishes anthropology from
other disciplines.
Holistic. Anthropology is holistic, or multifaceted, in approach to the study of human beings, that is, it
studies many aspects of human experience (e.g., history, environment, language, cultural patterns, political
and economic systems, religion, etc.) and aims to understand the connections among these aspects.
Physical or biological anthropology. It studies the emergence of humans and their later physical
evolution (paleoanthropology). It also studies how and why contemporary human populations vary
biologically (human variation).
Archaeology. It is concerned with the reconstruction of history through the remains of human
cultures. It also involves the tracing of cultural changes and their possible explanations.
Prehistory. The time before written records.
Historical archaeology. It studies the remains of recent peoples who left written records.
Linguistic anthropology. It is concerned with the emergence of language and with the divergence
of languages over time. It also studies how contemporary languages differ in construction and in actual
speech. Or simply, it is the study of language and language use in social and cultural contexts.
Cultural anthropology (a.k.a ethnology). It seeks to understand how and why peoples of today
and the recent past differ or are similar in their customary ways of thinking and acting.
Ethnographer. A person who spends some time living with, interviewing, and observing
a group of people so that s/he can describe their customs.
Ethnography. A description of society’s customary behaviors, beliefs, and attitudes.
Ethnohistorian. An ethnologist who uses historical documents to study how a particular
culture has changed over time. S/he relies on the reports of others about the history of people who did not
themselves leave written records.
Cross-cultural researcher. An ethnologist who uses ethnographic data about many
societies to test possible explanations of cultural variation or similarity.

Applied anthropology. It attempts to produce practical results for modern-day problems, based on
anthropological research.
“Anthropology may help people to be more tolerant. Anthropological studies can show us why
other people are the way they are, both culturally and physically. Customs or actions that appear improper
or offensive to us may be other peoples’ adaptations to particular environmental and social conditions.”
“Anthropology is also valuable in that knowledge of our past may bring us both a feeling of
humility and a sense of accomplishment. Knowledge of our achievements in the past may give us
confidence in our ability to solve the problems of the future.”

Evolution. The development of different species, one from another, over long periods of time.
Natural selection. The main process that increases the frequency of adaptive traits through time.
Principles: variation, heritability, and differential reproductive success
Dominant. The allele of a gene pair that is always phenotypically expressed in the heterozygous form.
Recessive. An allele phenotypically suppressed in the heterozygous form and expressed only in the
homozygous form.
Genotype. The total complement of inherited traits or genes of an organism; the genetic makeup.
Phenotype. The observable physical appearance of an organism, which may or may not reflect its genotype.
Genes. Chemical unit of heredity.
Allele. A member of a gene pair.
Homozygous. An organism possessing two identical genes for a trait.
Heterozygous. An organism possessing differing genes for a trait.
Chromosomes. Paired rod-shaped structures with a cell nucleus containing the genes that transmit traits
from one generation to the next.
Mitosis. Cellular reproduction or growth involving the duplication of chromosome pairs.
Meiosis. The process by which reproductive cells are formed.
DNA. Deoxyribonucleic acid; a long two-stranded molecule in the genes that directs the making of an
organism according to the instructions in its genetic code.
Messenger RNA. An RNA that moves outside the cell nucleus to direct the formation of proteins.
Segregation. The random sorting of chromosomes in meiosis.
Crossing over. The exchange of sections of chromosomes between one chromosome and another.
Mutation. A change in the DNA sequence, producing an altered gene.
Species. A population that consist of organisms able to interbreed and produce fertile and viable offspring.
Speciation. The development of a new species, especially when a subgroup of a species in a radically
different environment.
Behavioral ecology. Involves how all kinds of behavior are related to the environment.
Sociobiology. Involves social organization and social behavior.


Arboreal. Tree-living.
Prehensile. Grasping.
Opposable thumb. A thumb that can touch all the tips of other fingers.
Diurnal. Active during the day.
-two bones in the lower part of the leg and in the forearm
-a collarbone
-flexible, prehensile hands
-stereoscopic vision
-a relatively large brain
-only one or two offspring at a time
-long maturation of the young
-a high degree of dependence on social life and learning

Prosimians Anthropoids
New World Monkeys Old World Primates
Old World Monkeys Hominoids
Lemurs Marmosets Colobines Hylobates (gibbons)
Tarsiers Tamarins Cercopithecines Pongids (orangutans,
Lorises Cebids chimps, and gorillas)
Humans (hominids)

Prosimians Anthropoids
-depends more on smell for information -have rounded braincases
-have mobile ears, whiskers, longer snouts -reduced non-mobile outer ears
typically, and relatively fixed facial expressions -relatively small, flat faces
-have highly dexterous hands
Gorillas and chimps have similar proteins and DNA to that of humans, as well as anatomical and behavioral
similarities to humans. They also have the facility in learning sign language.

HUMANS (as different from other anthropoids):

-totally bipedal
-the human brain is the largest and most complex
-human females may engage in sexual intercourse at any time throughout the year
-human offspring have a proportionately longer dependency stage
-human behavior is learned and culturally patterned
-spoken, symbolic language

Fossil. May be an impression of an insect or leaf on a muddy or other surface that now is stone.
Relative dating. Used to determine the age of a specimen or deposit relative to another specimen or deposit.
Absolute dating. Used to measure how old a specimen or deposit is in years.
Stratigraphy. The study of how different rock formations and fossils are laid down in successive laters, or
F-U-N trio. Fluorine (F), uranium (U), and nitrogen (N) tests for relative dating, and these are present in
groundwater. The older a fossil, the higher its F and U content and the lower its N content.
Half-life. The rate of deterioration of Carbon-14.
Potassium-Argon (K-Ar) dating. An absolute dating method that uses the rate of decay of a radioactive
form of K into Ar to date samples from 5000-3B years old. It dates minerals and rocks, not the fossils
Argon-Argon (Ar-Ar) dating. Used in conjunction with K-Ar dating, it solves the problem of needing
different rock samples to estimate K and Ar. It involves the conversion of Ar to K to estimate the amount
of K. In this way, both Ar and K can be estimated from the same rock sample.
Fission-track dating. An absolute dating method used to date crystal, glass, and many uranium-rich
materials contemporaneous with fossils or deposits that are from 20 to 5B years old.
Arboreal theory. The primates evolved from insectivores that took to the trees. Arboreal life favored vision
over smell, which is more useful in an animal that searched for food in the maze of tree branches. The eyes
of the early primates faced forward as smell declined in importance. It also favored grasping hands and feet
and specialized hind limbs for support and propulsion. Three-dimensional binocular vision would be also
favored for accuracy in judgment of distances across open space from branch to branch.
Omomyids and adapids. Two prosimian groups; the former has tarsierlike features and is very small, the
latter has lemurlike features and is cat-sized.


Bipedalism. Walking on two feet. It has increased the emerging hominid’s ability to see predators and
potential prey while moving through the tall grasses of the savanna (grasslands), ability to carry some load
due to hands being free, ability to use tools, and has made long-distance traveling more efficient.
Australopithecus. Genus of Pliocene and Pleistocene hominids. The following may have been the species
A. anamensis, A. afarensis, A. africanus, A. boisei, A. robustus, and A. aethiopicus. Has flat, non-projecting
Unifacial tool. A tool worked or flaked on one side only.
Bifacial tool. A tool worked or flaked on two sides.
Oldowan. The earliest stone toolmaking tradition, named after the tools found in Bed I at Olduvai Gorge;
flake tools predominate.
Homo habilis (handy man). Has an approx.. 630-640 cc brain capacity and reduced molars and premolars.
It may have practiced tool use (as reflected by its name).
Homo erectus (upright man). Has an approx.. 895-1040 cc brain capacity and the first hominid species to
be widely distributed in the Old World. Has long, low skull and prominent brow ridges. Also has smaller
teeth than H. habilis and a projecting nose. H. erectus has an Acheulian toolmaking tradition (esp. bifacial
tools). It may have learned how to use fire and have done big-game eating.


Homo sapiens sapiens. Modern-looking humans having a domed skull, a chin, small eyebrows, brow
ridges, and a puny skeleton.
Homo sapiens. Our own species.
Homo sapiens neaderthalensis (Neandertals). A variety of early Homo sapiens. The first premodern
humans found. They are capable of the full range of behavior characteristic of modern humans but they
differ in that Neandertals made very strenuous use of their bodies.
Mousterian tool assemblage. A Middle Paleolithic tool assemblage that has a smaller proportion of large
core tools (e.g., handaxes and cleavers) and a bigger proportion of small flake tools (e.g., scrapers).
Levalloisian method. A method that allowed flake tools of a predetermined size to be produced from a
shaped core. The toolmaker first shaped the core and prepared a “striking platform” at one end. Flakes of
predetermined and standard sizes could then be knocked off.
Sediment. The dust, debris, and decay that accumulates over time.
Cro-Magnon. Humans who lived in western Europe about 35,000 years ago. They were once thought to
be the earliest specimen of modern humans (H. sapiens sapiens). But, now we know that earlier modern
humans appeared earlier in Africa.
Single-origin theory. Suggests that modern humans emerged in just one part of the Old World (usu. Africa)
and then spread to other parts. In addition, Neandertals became extinct and were replaced by modern
Multiregional theory. Suggests that modern humans evolved in various parts of the Old World after Homo
erectus spread out of Africa. In addition, it states that Homo erectus, Neandertals, and “archaic” H. sapiens
gradually evolved into anatomically modern-looking humans.
Radiocarbon dating. A dating method that uses the decay of carbon-14 to date organic remains. It is
reliable for dating once-living matter up to 50,000 years old.
Uranium-series dating. A technique used for dating Homo sapiens sites that uses the decay of two kinds
of uranium into other isotopes. Particularly useful in cave sites.
Thermoluminescence dating. A dating technique that is well suited to samples of ancient pottery, brick,
or tile which were heated to a high temperature that released trapped electrons.
Electron spin resonance dating. A dating technique that measures trapped electrons from surrounding
radioactive material.
Ethnographic analogy. A method of comparative cultural study that extrapolates to the past from recent
or current societies, that is, analyzing the past by the help of contemporary phenomena.
Middle Paleolithic period. Compared to Upper Paleolithic period, Middle Paleolithic period is relatively
less sophisticated in terms of toolmaking, that is, flake tools were a thing, collectively known as
Mousterian tool assemblage.
Upper Paleolithic period. Characterized by the preponderance of blades, new techniques of toolmaking,
the emergence of art, population growth, and new inventions like the bow and arrow and the harpoon.

Physical variation—variation in the frequencies of physical traits—from one human population to another
is the result of one or more of the following factors: natural selection, genetic drift, gene flow, the influence
of the physical and social or cultural environments.
Natural selection. See natural selection in EVOLUTION.
Directional selection. A type of natural selection that increases the frequency of a trait (the trait is
said to be positively favored, or adaptive).
Normalizing selection. A type of natural selection that removes harmful genes that arose from
Balancing selection. A type of selection that occurs when a heterozygous combination of alleles
is positively favored even though a homozygous combination is disfavored.
Genetic drift. The various random processes that affect gene frequencies in small, relatively isolated
populations. It increases differences between populations in different environments.
Founder principle. A variety of genetic drift that occurs when a small group recently derived from
a larger population migrates to a relatively isolated location. If a particular gene is absent just by chance in
the migrant group, the descendants are likely also to lack that gene, assuming that the group remains isolated.
If all members of the original migrant group just by chance carried a particular gene, their descendants
would also be likely to share that gene.
Gene flow. The process by which genes pass from one population to another through mating and
reproduction. It decreases differences between populations.
Bergmann’s rule. The slenderer populations of a species inhabit the warmer parts of its geographic range,
and the more robust populations inhabit the cooler areas.
Allen’s rule. Protruding body parts (e.g., limbs) are relatively shorter in the cooler areas of a species’ range
than in the warmer areas.
Gloger’s rule. Populations of birds and mammals living in warmer climates have more melanin, and
therefore darker skin, fur, or feathers, than do populations of the same species living in cooler areas.
Hypoxia. Oxygen deficiency.
Sickle-cell anemia. A condition in which red blood cells assume a sickle shape when deprived of oxygen,
instead of normal (disk) shape. The sickle-shaped RBCs do not move through the body, which would cause
damage to the heart, lungs, and vital organs.
Race. It refers to a subpopulation or variety of a species that differs somewhat in gene frequencies from
other varieties of species.
Racism. The belief, without scientific basis, that one race is superior to others. One form is the equation
between race and intelligence.


Mesolithic. The cultural period in Europe and the Near East during which preagricultural developments
took place.
Sedentarism. Settled life.
Broad-spectrum collecting. The exploitation of new sources of food (e.g., acquatic resources and wild
plants) due to decreasing availability of big game.
Neolithic (“the new stone age”). The period when there is a presence of domesticated plants and animals
Cultivation is when people plant crops.
Domestication is only when the crops cultivated and the animals raised are modified—different
from wild varieties.
Gordon Childe’s theory. Food production developed due to climate change. Because of decreased rains,
people had to retreat into oases in deserts. The lessened availability of wild resources provided an incentive
for people to cultivate grains and to domesticate animals.
Rachis. The seed-bearing part of a stem.
-population growth
-declining health
-elaboration of material possessions


-presence of a writing system
-full-time craft specialists
-monumental architecture
-great differences in wealth and status
-strong, hierarchical centralized political system (state)
State. A political unit with centralized decision making affecting a large population.
Formative era. The period from about 5000 to 3500 BC in southern Iraq during which chiefdoms
Environmental degradation (or deforestation) and the spread of diseases may have caused the fall of states.
Cuneiform. Sumerian writing that was wedge-shaped, formed by pressing a stylus against a damp clay
Hieroglyphics. Early Egyptian writing that was written on rolls woven from papyrus reeds.
Irrigation theory. The labor and management needed for the upkeep of an irrigation system led to
the formation of a political elite, the overseers of the system, who eventually became the governors of the
society. Both the city and civilization were outgrowths of the administrative requirements of an irrigation
Circumscription theory. States may emerge because of population growth in an area that is
physically or socially limited. Competition and warfare in such a situation may lead to the subordination of
defeated groups, who are obliged to submit to the control of the most powerful group.
Trade theories. The organizational requirements of producing items for export, redistributing the
items imported, and defending trading parties would foster state formation.