Physical Anthropology


Biological anthropology (also known as bioanthropology and physical anthropology) is that branch of anthropology that studies the physical development of the human species. It plays an important part in paleoanthropology (the study of human origins) and in forensic anthropology (the analysis and identification of human remains for legal purposes). It draws upon human anthropometrics (body measurements), human genetics (molecular anthropology) and human osteology (the study of bones) and includes neuroanthropology, the study of human brain evolution, and of culture as neurological adaptation to environment.

In two centuries biological anthropology has been involved in a range of controversies. The quest for human origins was accompanied by the evolution debate and various racial theories. The nature and nurture debate became a political battleground. There have been various attempts to correlate human physique with psychological traits such as intelligence, criminality and personality type, many of which proved themselves mistaken and are now obsolete. For more details here go to:


Part 1:

Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the natural sciences, the humanities, and the social sciences.[1] The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos, "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German philosopher Magnus Hundt.[2] Anthropology asks many questions like: "What defines Homo sapiens?", "Who are the ancestors of modern Homo sapiens?", "What are humans' physical traits?", "How do humans behave?", "Why are there variations and differences among different groups of humans?", "How has the evolutionary past of Homo sapiens influenced its social organization and culture?"---and many, many more..

In the United States, contemporary anthropology is typically divided into four sub-fields: cultural anthropology, also called "social anthropology", archaeology, linguistic anthropology, and physical or biological anthropology.[3] The four-field approach to anthropology is reflected in many undergraduate textbooks[4] as well as anthropology programs like those in Michigan, Berkeley, and at Penn State.  At universities in the United Kingdom, and much of Europe, these "sub-fields" are frequently housed in separate departments and are seen as distinct disciplines.[5]

Part 2:

The social and cultural sub-field has been heavily influenced by structuralist and post-modern theories, as well as a shift toward the analysis of modern societies, an arena more typically in the domain of sociologists. During the 1970s and 1980s there was an epistemological(theory of knowledge) shift away from the positivist(empirical, data-oriented) traditions that had largely informed the discipline up to that time. [6] During this shift, enduring questions about the nature and production of knowledge came to occupy a central place in cultural and social anthropology. In contrast, archaeology, biological anthropology, and linguistic anthropology remained largely positivist. Due to this difference in epistemology, anthropology as a discipline has lacked cohesion over the last several decades. This has even led to departments diverging, for example. in the 1998–9 academic year at Stanford University, the "scientists" and "non-scientists" divided into two departments: anthropological sciences and cultural & social anthropology.[7]  These departments at Stanford later reunified in the 2008–9 academic year.[8]
1.Eric Wolf, "Perilous Ideas: Race, Culture, People," Current Anthropology 35: 1-7. 1994, p.227.
2.Juul Dieserud, The Scope and Content of the Science of Anthropology, London:Open Court Publishing, 1908.
3.a b
4.C. Kottak,
5. Robert Layton, An Introduction to Theory in Anthropology, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
6. Clifford Geertz and James Behar
7. Stanford University Bulletin 1998-1999 pg. 213,
8. Stanford University Bulletin 2007-2008 pg. 269
Some references to anthropology are found in my internet posts. Number (i) below is not being published right now, but there are half-a-dozen links of relevance to physical anthropology.




Life writing is now one of the most dynamic and rapidly developing fields of international scholarship. Life writing is a catch-all term developed to encompass several genres: autobiography, biography, memoir, journal, diary, letter and other forms of self-construction. During my pioneering-and-travelling life(1962-2015), and especially since I have been writing my memoirs(1984-2015), or what I sometimes refer to as my autobiography, this dynamism and intensive development has been particularly prominent. The field also includes these several genres of life-narrative I mentioned above within various disciplines of the social sciences and humanities: history, anthropology, sociology, politics, leadership and leisure studies, narrative and literary studies, among others.  I make use of all these genres in my memoir, but only a small portion of any one of them are found in what has become quite an extensive work.


The confrontation of sharply diverse cultures caught the imagination of the Greek historian Herodotus(485-425 BC) and the modern philosopher civil-servant Turgot(1727-1781).  It was this diversity and this confrontation that helped to provide the motivational matrix for the writing of their histories. They both saw in this diversity “a key to the understanding of history.” The confrontation of sharply different cultures has been a phenomenon that goes back probably hundreds of thousands of years if one draws on the science of paleo-anthropology . More recently, at least since Columbus and the beginnings of modern history, if one defines ‘modern’ as that period going back to the end of the Middle Ages, that clash of cultures has been increasing in extent and intensity. And this clash affects modern writing. Walter Benjamin who functioned variously as a literary critic, philosopher, sociologist,
once said that the most modern of texts would be made entirely of other texts. While this is not true of this text, it is difficult to ignore the partial truth of Benjamin's remarks as they apply to my autobiography. For as I write these words there are more than 2000 references that I draw on to elaborate my story, my life-narrative.


Part 1:

In a review, 3/4/'14, entitled "Most of Us Are Part Neanderthal" by Steven Mithen in The New York Review of Books (i) Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes by Svante Pääbo(Basic Books, 300 pages), and (ii) The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals by Thomas Suddendorf(Basic Books, 400 pages), we read the following:  "The Swedish biologist Svante Pääbo has discovered that we are all part Neanderthal—except those with an entirely African heritage.  Archaeologists and physical anthropologists have long debated the evolutionary relationship between modern humans and Neanderthals, relying on the similarities and differences between their designs of stone artifacts and the shapes of their bones, with little real understanding of how these might have arisen. Interminable academic arguments have been swept away by the revolution in studies of ancient DNA, led by Pääbo who is now at the Max Planck Institute in Leipzig, and brilliantly recounted in his new book, Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes.

This book has to be compared to The Double Helix (1968), James Watson’s brilliant but controversial account of how the structure of DNA was discovered. When taken together they provide an insight into how biomolecular science has both changed and remained much the same during the last half-century. Both are strong personal accounts of scientific discovery, exposing how science is driven as much by passion, ambition, and competition as by rational thought and the sharing of knowledge. In both books the reader is gripped by life stories of far greater interest than those in many novels before being plunged into passages of near-unintelligible science (despite much simplification) that are nevertheless strangely enthralling.​ Go to this link for more:

Part 2:

A jawbone unearthed in Romania in 2015 of a man who lived about 40,000 years ago, boasts the most Neanderthal ancestry ever seen in a member of our species. The finding, published in the journal Nature, also indicates that interbreeding with Neanderthals occurred much more recently than previously known. "We show that one of the very first modern humans that is known from Europe had a Neanderthal ancestor just four to six generations back in his family tree," says study co-author geneticist Svante Paabo of Germany's Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology. "He carries more Neanderthal DNA than any other present-day or ancient modern human seen to date." The international team of scientists extracted genomic data from the bone powder of a modern human, called Oase 1 unearthed at a cave system called Peștera cu Oase.

They found 6 to 9 per cent of this individual's genome derived from a Neanderthal ancestor. The study, indicates that our species interbred with Neanderthals in Europe as well, not just in the Middle East as previously thought, says Paabo. Previous research suggested this interbreeding occurred 50,000 to 60,000 years ago, before our species, arising in Africa, trekked into Europe, Asia and beyond. "Modern humans arrive in Europe after 43,000 years ago, and Neanderthals went extinct by 39,000 years ago," says David Reich from Harvard Medical School. This indicates the individual, a hunter-gatherer, was from a "pioneer population" that entered Europe, but did not contribute much or anything at all genetically to later Europeans, says Reich. "This is interesting because it means that Europe has not been continuously occupied by the same lineages ever since the first waves of migration of modern humans into Europe," he says. The robust, large-browed Neanderthals prospered across Europe and Asia from about 350,000 years ago till shortly after 40,000 years ago, disappearing in the period after Homo sapiens arrived. For more go to:


A new species of ancient human has been unearthed in the Afar region of Ethiopia, scientists reported on 10 September 2015. Researchers discovered jaw bones and teeth which date to between 3.3m and 3.5m years old. It means this new hominid was alive at the same time as several other early human species, suggesting our family tree is more complicated than was thought. The study is published in the journal Nature. The new species has been called Australopithecus deyiremeda, which means "close relative" in the language spoken by the Afar people. Unusually thick lower jawbone with large teeth were found 15 miles out to sea by fishermen working in the Penghu channel off Taiwan. They found it in their nets. The fossil is thought to be around 200,000 years old and is much larger than the mandibles of other ancient human species living in Asia at the time. Experts believe it could belong to a previously unknown primitive human. Homo erectus was thought to be the only ancient human living in the area. Scientists say there may have been several species of early humans living in Asia until the arrival of modern humans around 55,000 years ago;  some experts say the jawbone could also be from a large skull of a known species or provide evidence that a Neanderthal-like species lived in Asia


My pioneering experience took me across the sea, first in 1967 across the Davis and Hudson Straits, extensions of the North Atlantic Ocean; second in 1971 across the Pacific Ocean and third, in 1974, 1978 and 1999 across the Bass Strait, an extension of the Great Southern Ocean, to live on Baffin Island, the continental island of Australia and Tasmania, respectively. These pioneer moves could have had the soporific effect that the migration of the Philistines had on them about the same time as the Israelites were transforming themselves from nomadic stock-breeders into sedentary tillers on stony, barren and landlocked highlands and pasture-lands east of Jordan and south of Hebron.

But I found these moves, like the Volkerwanderungs, that is the wanderings, of the past---those of the Ionians, the Angles, the Scots and the Scandinavians---possessed an intrinsic stimulus. For these moves were part of a modern Volkerwanderung, a national and international pioneering exodus, diaspora.  My own role in this story was as a part of that national exodus, the opening chapters of the push of the Baha’i Faith to “the Northernmost Territories of the Western Hemisphere”(1) and Canada’s “glorious mission overseas.”(2)  And to put this venture in its largest, its longest perspective and time frame: my work is at the outset of the second 'period' of a 'cycle' of hundreds of thousands of years, in a second 'age', over five 'epochs'; to use yet another paradigm, my life is at the beginning of the federated state, after successive units of political and social organization on the planet: tribe, chiefdom, clan, city state and nation after homo sapiens sapiens emerged some 35,000 years ago from a homo sapiens line beginning 3mya.(circa)(3)

(1) Shoghi Effendi, Messages to Canada, p.37.
(2) ibid.,p.69.
(3) Juan Ricardo Cole, "The Concept of the Manifestation in the Baha'i Writings," Baha'i Studies, Vol.9, p.36. The terms cycle, period, age and epoch place one's life in what one might call an anthropological, an evolutionary, perspective.
Note: In the early 1990s I taught anthropology at a Technical and Further Education College in Perth Western Australia. It was called the Thornlie Tafe College. In the nearly 20 years since I finished teaching anthropology(1993-2011) I have tried to follow the increasing knowledge of this field in paleoanthropology (mya=million years ago), among other sub-disciplines of anthropology.


The political and religious unification of the planet for human welfare is the principle that is gradually coming to dominate this cycle, a cycle which began about 6000 B.P. This cycle, according to ‘Abdu’l-Baha, will last for 500,000 years and we are, at the moment, at the start of the second period in this cycle(1844-1944).(1) The first proto-states developed in Mesopatamia, Egypt and India at this time, about 6000 B.P. The concepts and the principles involved in the development of the nation state can be analysed and discussed as they are in political anthropology, political sociology and history among other social science disciplines. For my purposes here, the union, the federation of seven Dutch provinces in 1581, independent of a monarch could be said to initiate the start of the modern phase of the nation state. The Peace of Westphalia in 1648, signed when parties who had been at war for 30 years came together, could also be seen as marking another critical stage in modern nationhood. It was the first time that a European community of sovereign states was established. And it was only possible because all of its members recognized each other as having equal legal standing, and guaranteed each other their independence. They had to recognize their international legal treaties as binding, if they wanted to be an international community of law.

Previous cycles in physical and cultural evolution are not referred to as “cycles”, as far as I know, by ‘Abdu’l-Baha. But if one goes back to 500,000 B.P. we find, at least since 1907, Homo heidelbergensis, the possible direct ancestor of Homo neanderthalensis. He is seen as part of the proto-human species. He hunted, buried his dead and was developing a complex mind.(2) And so began the story of the million year period in which we are at the mid-point. -Ron Price with thanks to (1) Juan Cole, “The Concept of the Manifestation in the Baha’i Writings,” Baha’i Studies, Vol.9, pp.36-7; and (2) “Science and Nature: Prehistoric Life,”, 18 December 2007.

It really only began just the other day--
several thousand years after we began
to settle into agriculture and with the
development of those proto-states in
Mesopotamia, Egypt, India: 4000 B.P.

It really only began just the other day--
after that union of Dutch provinces in
1581 and that Treaty of Westphalia in
1648, landmarks on the way to that big
year 1844 at the start of the 2nd Period
of this Baha’i Era: 1844--501,844 A.D.

It really only began just the other day--
the political and religious unification
of Homo.sapiens, sapiens, sub-species
of Homo.sapiens of the genus Homo of
the family Hominidae of that order of

Primates of the class Mammalia of the
phylum Chordata of the kingdom Animalia--
after the great treck out of Africa thousands
and thousands of years ago to cover the globe
in the greatest of journeys, stories, ever told.

And so it grew: clans and chiefdoms, tribes
and city states, nations and now a federation:
units of social organization across the face of
this planet—little by little, day by day in larger
and larger interdependencies. Some fortuitous
series of synchronized events bringing this
national state, a cultural artefact created through
a somewhat spontaneous distillation of discrete
historical events, into existence just at the time
as a Light of Divine guidance appeared in the
Middle East: Shaykh Ahmad, Siyyid Kazim,
the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Baha.(1)

(1) 1743-1921

Ron Price
19 December 2007


Unlike some of the other academic fields like, say, the biological and physical sciences, the social sciences(the disciplines in which the wisdom literature is now located are either old-like history, philosophy and religion--or young like economics, psychology, sociology, anthropology, human relations, etc.) are all inexact, highly subjective and infinitely more complex than the physical and biological sciences. Everybody and their dog can play at dispensing their wisdoms, with the dogs sometimes providing the best advice in the form of close friendships, at least for some people with canine proclivities. Unlike the physical and biological sciences, though, knowledge and experience is not required. Anyone can play the game. Often the untutored and apparently ignorant and those who have read nothing at all in the field, can offer humble wisdoms and funnies which excel the most learned, with or without their PhDs. So be warned: its a mine field, this advice and wisdom business. A great deal of useless stuff gets attractively packaged. Many ideas are like many attractive young women; the beauty is only skin deep, as it were.