Sixty Years of Modern Human Origins in the American Anthropological Association



We present a review of the history of scientific inquiry into modern human origins, focusing on the role of the American Anthropologist. We begin during the mid–20th century, at the time when the problem of modern human origins was first presented in the American Anthropologist and could first be distinguished from more general questions about human and hominid origins. Next, we discuss the effects of the modern evolutionary synthesis on biological anthropology and paleoanthropology in particular, and its role in the origin of anthropological genetics. The rise of human genetics is discussed along two tracks, which have taken starkly different approaches to the historical interpretation of recent human diversity. We cover varying paleoanthropological interpretations, including paleoanthropologists' reactions to genetic interpretations. We hope to identify some of the crucial inflection points in which the debate went astray, to rectify some of the points of misunderstanding among current scientists, and to clarify the likely path ahead. [Keywords: multiregional evolution, recent African origin, bottleneck, polygenism, race]