Good morning, pals. I haven’t posted in a while – but I’m getting there. Trying to make a habit of it I guess!
Today I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned the last 3 years with you, during my time studying at Durham.
I picked anthropology as my degree, mostly because it was fairly close to the top of the list of subjects available. (I’m only sort of joking.) Anyway, I had no idea what it was, and it looked interesting.
Anthropology, as a discipline, is recognised and categorised into four main branches:
- Biological or physical
Now, I don’t want to get into the nuances of each field, right here, right now. I’m only going to focus on one topic.
My degree is in biological anthropology. Biological anthropology focuses mostly on:
In my first year I was taught by a wonderful woman named Trudi. Trudi was pretty crazy, but provided the best possible introduction to a subject I previously knew next to nothing about.
Wearing a smock, she’d waltz into the lecture theatre and transport us almost immediately into a world full of bones and unsolved mysteries. She introduced us to the subject thus:
Seven million years ago, the line between primatology and paleoanthropology becomes, well, slightly blurred.
What is a primate?
Aside from being #mymates (sorry), primates are what we know as monkeys and apes.
What is paleoanthropology?
Paleoanthropology is slightly more tricky. If we take “paleo” to mean “old”, and “anthropology” to mean “human”, then we get, well, “old humans.” And that’s basically what it is. Looking at how and why and when humans developed from primates.
Having established this, biological anthropology suddenly becomes a frighteningly broad area of study. It’s primates and evolution and a story with barely any answers.
Who am I? You ask, and I really can’t tell you.
Perhaps you swung from the trees with Orrorin, 6 million years ago.
Perhaps you cracked nuts with Paranthropus, whilst Lucy sat nearby and made her tools.
Maybe you painted cave art with the Neanderthals in France, or made spears with Homo heidelbergensis in Germany.
It’s just…. we don’t know.
And that’s what makes the subject so fascinating!
In this series of short writings entitled “Accessible anthropology”, I’ll be explaining our evolutionary history as best I can. It’ll probably be horrendously biased and unfactual at points, but I’ll try to make it as interesting as I can.
Actually, that’s a lie. I don’t need to “make” it interesting. It already is!
Imagine thinking you only had one relative and then…discovering an entire, crazy family.
For better or for worse, we’re in this together.
Love and skeletons,