chapter  7
40 Pages

Primate Phylogeny, 1935–1965

During the 1935-1965 period, the debates about humankind’s place among the primates were greatly simplified or circumscribed, as the debates on human phylogeny had been.1 This followed the abandonment of two distinct theses that were promoted in the 1860-1935 period. First, no adherent continued to embrace the tradition of polyphyletic hypotheses in which it was held that some living human races had a closer phylogenetic link with some primate species than with other human races. Interestingly enough, the specter of this thesis continued to hang over the field of paleoanthropology in the late 1940s and early 1950s in the writings of Wood Jones and Osman Hill, only to be discarded or falsely applied by them (see below). Second, nobody followed in the steps of Adloff and Sergi in promoting parallel hypotheses in which the human line (or lines) had no phylogenetic link whatsoever with any primate form. It is unclear what contributed to the demise of this latter viewpoint besides the fact that it has always been a very marginal one. Apparently, scholars presenting ideas after the 1930s all agreed that irrespective of the geological time horizon when, or the evolutionary stage at which, the human line departed from its last common ancestor, this ancestor was a primate.