17. Paleoanthropology and Race

  1. David R. Begun
  1. Milford H. Wolpoff and
  2. Rachel Caspari

Published Online: 14 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch17

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

How to Cite

Wolpoff, M. H. and Caspari, R. (2013) Paleoanthropology and Race, in A Companion to Paleoanthropology (ed D. R. Begun), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch17

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 14 JAN 2013
  2. Published Print: 25 FEB 2013

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444331165

Online ISBN: 9781118332344



  • evolutionary polygenism;
  • human fossil record;
  • human race;
  • human variation;
  • paleoanthropology


This chapter focuses on the relationship between the race concept and paleoanthropology. At its core lies polygenism, the idea that links the race concept to the study of human evolution through the phylogenetic treatment of human variation. Two aspects of the relationship between race and paleoanthropology are developed in this chapter. First, the chapter explores the changing historical relationship between polygenism, evolutionary theory, and race, its bearing on social policies, and its bearing on the development of paleoanthropology as the human fossil record was discovered. Second, it addresses the question of whether human variation was ever apportioned racially in the biological sense. In doing so, it examines the nature of past human diversity and how it changed, including its effect on the evolutionary process, and on the origins of modern human variation.