Dictionary of Concepts in Physical Anthropology

Dictionary of Concepts in Physical Anthropology

Dictionary of Concepts in Physical Anthropology

Dictionary of Concepts in Physical Anthropology


This reference dictionary takes a new approach to the study of physical anthropology by focusing on the concepts involved. Stevenson presents concise entries describing the development of physical anthropological concepts followed by bibliographies including most of the major works in the field. The history of the usage of each concept is traced from its origins--often outside the discipline of physical anthropology--to the contemporary and usually multidisciplinary contexts in which physical anthropologists participate. Entries clearly delineate both the theoretical development of the concepts under discussion and their applications in physical anthropological practice.


In all disciplines, scholars seek to understand and explain the subject matter in their area of specialization. the object of their activity is to produce a body of knowledge about specific fields of inquiry. As they achieve an understanding of their subject, scholars publish the results of their interpretations (that is, their research findings) in the form of explanations.

Explanation, then, can be said to organize and communicate understanding. When reduced to agreed-upon theoretical principles, the explanations that emerge from this process of organizing understanding are called concepts.

Concepts serve many functions. They help us identify topics we think about, help classify these topics into related sets, relate them to specific times and places, and provide us with definitions. Without concepts, someone has said, "man could hardly be said to think."

Like knowledge itself, the meanings of concepts are fluid. From the moment an authority introduces a concept into a discipline's vocabulary, where it is given a specific meaning, that concept has the potential to acquire a variety of meanings. As new understandings develop in the discipline, inevitably the meanings of concepts are revised.

Although this pattern in the formation of the meaning of concepts is widely recognized, few dictionaries--certainly none in a consistent manner--trace the path a concept takes as it becomes embedded in a research topic's literature.

Dictionaries in this series uniformly present brief, substantive discussions of the etymological development and contemporary use of the significant concepts in a discipline or subdiscipline. Another feature that distinguishes these dictionaries from others in the field is their emphasis upon bibliographic information.

Volumes contain about 100 entries. Consistently, entries comprise four parts. in the first part, brief statements give the current meaning of a concept. Next, discursive paragraphs trace a concept's historical origins and connotative de-

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