Ancient Hunters and Their Modern Representatives: William Sollas’s Anthropology from Disappointed Bridge to Trunkless Tree and the Instrumentalisation of Racial Conflict

Journal of the History of Biology 38 (2):327-365 (2005)
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During the first decades of the 20th century, many anthropologists who had previously adhered to a linear view of human evolution, from an ape via Pithecanthropus erectus and Neanderthal to modern humans, began to change their outlook. A shift towards a branching model of human evolution began to take hold. Among the scientific factors motivating this trend was the insight that mammalian evolution in general was best represented by a branching tree, rather than by a straight line, and that several new fossil hominids were discovered that differed significantly in their morphology but seemed to date from about the same period. The ideological and practical implications of imperialism and WWI have also been identified as formative of the new evolutionary scenarios in which racial conflict played a crucial role. The paper will illustrate this general shift in anthropological theory for one particular scientist, William Sollas. Sollas achieved a synthesis of human morphological and cultural evolution in what I will refer to as an imperialist model. In this theoretical framework, migration, conflict, and replacement became the main mechanisms for progress spurred by 'nature's tyrant,' natural selection.



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Theories of Human Evolution: A Century of Debate, 1844-1944.Peter J. Bowler - 1988 - Journal of the History of Biology 21 (1):165-166.
The biology/culture link in human evolution, 1750–1950: the problem of integration in science.Richard G. Delisle - 2000 - Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences 31 (4):531-556.
The Diffusion of Culture. [REVIEW]R. J. Hopper - 1964 - The Classical Review 14 (3):327-329.

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