The 86th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2017)

Dead end evolutionary lineage, says the White man: the evolution of Homo erectus and Homo sapiens in Asia


Anthropology, Texas A&M University

April 21, 2017 4:15, Riverview 1 Add to calendar

The role of Asian populations in models of Middle and Late Pleistocene hominin evolution has historically been framed in two ways. Before 1948, the predominant view was that East/Southeast Asian Homo erectus was a “prehominid” species ancestral to Homo sapiens. After 1948 with the publication of Movius’s monograph, Asia was treated as a “marginal region of cultural retardation” that played no role in the evolution of H. sapiens. The perpetuation of this perspective into the late 20th and early 21st century has had the effect of marginalizing the Asian data in global models of human evolution. Perhaps more importantly, the contributions of scholars from the region have been viewed with skepticism, thus effectively keeping their voices from contributing to an understanding of our evolutionary history. In keeping with the theme of the symposium, this presentation will discuss the implications of these events on two levels: first, in terms of how they impacted the developing narrative of human evolution; and second, in terms of how they reflect biases in the way Western physical anthropologists conduct scientific research. A proposal for opening the science of paleoanthropology to a broader regional and cultural range of scientific perspectives is offered.