chapter  10
53 Pages

Primate and Human Phylogeny, 1965–2000

We have reached the last stage of our inquiry. The purpose of this chapter is to present in a condensed manner the key developments related to the quest of humankind’s place in nature between 1965 and 2000. On several occasions in this book we have had the opportunity to insist on a number of false assumptions carried by the traditional historiography interested in the history of paleoanthropology. Too often, proponents of this historiography have looked upon paleoanthropology with the expectation that its past developments would more or less conform with the modern ones. By so doing, modern scholars have shoehorned the past debates into a modern framework which is far too restrictive for their proper understanding. Not only has this procedure produced a distorted interpretation of the history of the field but, perhaps more importantly, it has also deprived the modern paleoanthropologists of a proper understanding of how progress came about, epistemologically speaking. This epistemological question will be treated more fully in the next chapter. It is no surprise then that the traditional historiography carried the notion-implicitly or explicitly-of a field of paleoanthropology largely at a standstill (see also Chapter 1). What is needed is not the reading of the past debates in light of the modern ones but the exact opposite. This chapter will review four key modern debates-humankind’s place among the primates, the scenarios of hominization, the place of the australopithecines, and the rise of the living humans-with the intention of determining to what extent each of these quests has progressed in light of the past debates. It will be clearly seen that the general quest to establish humankind’s place in nature during the 1965-2000 period continued to progress on several counts when compared to the pre-1965 period.