Biological anthropology

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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.


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

File:Human head measuring instrument.jpg
A head measuring instrument used by 19th century anthropologists to measure such parameters as cephalic index.

External links

bs:Fizička antropologija ca:Antropologia física cy:Anthropoleg biolegol et:Füüsiline antropoloogia fur:Antropologjie fisiche is:Líffræðileg mannfræði it:Antropologia fisica lt:Fizinė antropologija hu:Fizikai antropológia nl:Biologische antropologie simple:Physical anthropology sk:Fyzická antropológia sh:Fizička antropologija