3. Human Systematics

  1. David R. Begun
  1. David S. Strait

Published Online: 14 JAN 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch3

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

A Companion to Paleoanthropology

How to Cite

Strait, D. S. (2013) Human Systematics, in A Companion to Paleoanthropology (ed D. R. Begun), Blackwell Publishing Ltd, Oxford. doi: 10.1002/9781118332344.ch3

Publication History

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

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781444331165

Online ISBN: 9781118332344



  • fossil humans;
  • human classification;
  • human systematics;
  • phylogeny reconstruction;
  • systematic analysis;
  • taxonomy


Systematics, the science of diversity, is traditionally said to consist of two fundamental parts: taxonomy and phylogeny reconstruction. Taxonomy concerns the identification of species and their classification into higher-order groups like genera and families. Phylogeny refers to the pattern of evolutionary relationships between taxa. Taxonomy and phylogeny are related insofar as phylogenetic relationships should inform the classification of higher-order taxa. This chapter reviews principles of human systematics, the species of extinct humans, their phylogenetic relationships, and their classification. The first stage in a systematic analysis entails the identification of species. This process is commonly known as alpha taxonomy. Following the identification of species, systematists often attempt to reconstruct the phylogenetic relationships of the species. The final stage of systematic analysis concerns classification, in which species are organized into hierarchically nested groups. A table in this chapter presents a formal classification of fossil and living humans.