chapter  2
23 Pages

Comparative Anatomy

Remarkably, the 1860-1890 period saw the rather sudden rise of key debates in human evolution, especially those concerned with humankind’s place among the primates and with the hypothetical reconstructions of humankind’s early ancestors. It is not that such debates were totally without pre-1860 antecendents-think of Lamarck, for instance-it is rather that they presented themselves during this time period in full-blown scale, with well-articulated arguments and already with an impressive diversity of viewpoints. Although the establishment of the precise birth date of paleoanthropology is a moot question (e.g., Delisle, 1998)—which might not necessarily be of supreme importance-a good argument could be mounted in favor of the view that the field was fully constituted between 1860 and 1890 as seen by the surprising vitality and robustness of the debates then being conducted. The value of this argument is further increased when considering that many of the 1890-1935 debates found their roots in the 1860-1890 ones.