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Biological anthropology

  Biological anthropology, or physical anthropology is a branch of anthropology that studies the mechanisms of biological evolution, genetic inheritance, human adaptability and variation, primatology, primate morphology, and the fossil record of human evolution. See also: Race.

Physical anthropology developed in the 19th century, prior to the rise of Alfred Russel Wallace's and Charles Darwin's theories of natural selection and Gregor Mendel's work on genetics. Physical anthropology was so called because all of its data was physical (fossils, especially human bones). With the rise of Darwinian theory and the modern synthesis, anthropologists had access to new forms of data, and many began to call themselves "biological anthropologists."[citation needed]

Some of the early branches of physical anthropology, such as early anthropometry, are now rejected as pseudoscience. Metrics such as the cephalic index were used to derive behavioral characteristics. Two of the earliest founders of scientific physical anthropology were Paul Broca and Franz Boas.


  • Primatology, the study of primates,
  • Population genetics, the study of biological human variability and diversity (related to evolutionary biology)
  • Human adaptation, the study of human adaptive responses (physiological, developmental, and genetic) to environmental stress and variation (see also biomedical anthropology, human biology).
  • Human anatomy the study of the anatomy and physiology of humans and their ancestors.
  • Human evolution including:
    • Paleoanthropology, the study of fossil evidence for human evolution.
    • Human behavioral ecology, the study of behavioral adaptations such as foraging, reproduction, and ontogeny from an evolutionary ecological perspective (see also behavioral ecology).
  • Neuroanthropology, the study of the evolution of the human brain, and of culture as a neurological adaptation of the species to its environment.

The study of human evolution often involves other specializations:

  • Human osteology, the study of skeletal material. Experts in osteology are able to apply their skills and knowledge to other areas:
    • Paleopathology, which studies the traces of disease and injury in human skeletons
    • Forensic anthropology, the analysis and identification of human remains in the service of coroners or medical examiners. This research often provides law enforcement with important evidence.

Renowned biological anthropologists


  • Richard Leakey (1944- )
  • David Pilbeam
  • Elwyn Simons
  • Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (1881 - 1955)
  • Phillip V. Tobias (1925-)
  • Alan C. Walker (1938- )
  • Sherwood Washburn (1911 - 2000)
  • Ralph Holloway (1935- )
  • Milford H. Wolpoff (1942- )
  • Tim White (1950- )
  • Pardis Sabeti (1975- )
  • Raymond Dart
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Biological_anthropology". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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