2. History

  1. David R. Begun
  1. Matthew R. Goodrum

Published Online: 14 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch2

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

How to Cite

Goodrum, M. R. (2013) History, in A Companion to Paleoanthropology (ed D. R. Begun), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch2

Publication History

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

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444331165

Online ISBN: 9781118332344



  • evolutionary theory;
  • human evolution;
  • human paleontology;
  • paleoanthropological research;
  • paleoanthropology


Paleoanthropology emerged as a science only in the late 19th century, but inquiry into human origins can be traced back to early Greek philosophers. During the 17th and 18th centuries, naturalists, antiquaries, and scholars made significant discoveries and proposed influential theories about the history of life on earth, the relationship of humans to the animal kingdom, and the archeological evidence from early human history. This chapter presents a brief history of paleoanthropology, tracing its origins from prehistoric archeology, evolutionary theory, and human paleontology in the 19th century to a multidisciplinary science in the 20th century. Investigating this history enables the reader to better understand why certain discoveries and theories were accepted during some periods only to be rejected in others. It also gives a useful perspective on the current state of the discipline and may offer insights into profitable ways for paleoanthropological research to proceed in the future.