Fossils, Teeth, and Sex: New Perspectives on Human Evolution

Fossils, Teeth, and Sex: New Perspectives on Human Evolution

Fossils, Teeth, and Sex: New Perspectives on Human Evolution

Fossils, Teeth, and Sex: New Perspectives on Human Evolution

Excerpt

This book presents a new picture of human evolution. It is one that stems, in part, from treating fossils more as we generally treat living forms. But it is also one that comes, in part, from what we learn by studying the living forms as though they were fossils.

Thinking of fossils as living forms is the reverse of what is usually done in studies of fossil primates. It means thinking of fossils as populations and as two sexes, even although we cannot actually know which individual specimens are in which populations, nor of which sex. Such a procedure better helps display the varieties of structures that exist, than when only one or a very few fossil specimens or subjects, are available for study. As a result of adopting such a strategy, this book is forced to concentrate on dimensions of teeth, because these are the only remains that are numerous enough to allow it.

Thinking of living forms as fossils is also the reverse of what we usually do. Living forms, are of course, usually studied in situations where we know the populations and the sexes from information independent of the data. Thinking of living forms as though they were fossils, means examining living forms as though we did not know population and sex for each specimen. The comparison between these two sides of the coin helps powerfully in understanding the situation in fossils where only the one side is available.

Treating the fossils more as though they were living forms also means looking at comparisons, without making the assumption that any particular fossils are on the same lineages as others. This is also different from that usually done in studies of primate fossils where, in contrast to paleontological studies of other organisms, it seems that investigators of human evolution are mainly trying to establish ancestors. Even although different species have existed . . .

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