chapter  6
25 Pages

The Constriction of Human Phylogenetic Hypotheses, 1935–1950

Hominid phylogenetic hypotheses in the 1890-1935 period were profoundly divergent. This was the direct product of scholars working within three competing interpretative frameworks. This situation was to change dramatically during the 1935-1950 period. Two main factors explain the rise of this new research context. First, the interpretative framework which was responsible for the polyphyletic hypotheses disappeared. Second, the two remaining interpretative frameworks started to generate phylogenetic hypotheses that were very close to each other, conceptually and empirically. In fact, these two surviving frameworks were now overlapping in their interpretations of human phylogeny to such an extent that it is no longer relevant to refer to them as “interpretative frameworks.” This latter concept served its purpose well in the first third of the twentieth century at a time when viewpoints on human phylogeny were separated by important differences. This concept has now outlived its utility. Regarding this new situation, after 1935, the field of paleoanthropology saw a considerable reduction both in the distinctiveness of the viewpoints about human phylogeny as well as in the taxonomic diversity entertained about such hypotheses. This led to the proposition of human phylogenetic hypotheses which were less and less distinct from one another. In this chapter, this process has been called the “constriction” of phylogenetic hypotheses.