There are however, somethings that refuse to change, things that are still taught in schools that have been fazed of the actual field for decades.
Anthropology is an ever changing field. One day it seems like we know something as fact and other days everything we know is flipped upside down. With each new find our knowledge grows but so too does our thirst to find out more. So many more questions arise as we learn new things. We have more questions to answer now, than we have ever asked before.
Today we will be focusing on one of these topics, and that topic is that of the Human Family Tree. For hundreds of years, human evolution as we have understood it has been explained using the likeness of a tree. Branching stems that come together to form bigger branches all the way until you get to the largest, united trunk. One branch at a time, in one place.
This idea was first described by Charles Darwin in the late 1800’s, and for the time it was revolutionary and helped frame the place of humans not only in their own family tree but that of the animal kingdom as well.
But we have learned a lot over the last few centuries and the way we invasion human evolutionary progression has changed, no longer is it a linear line, or tree, nor is it even a bush or shrub, but rather a braided stream running into an estuary.
Besides the pleasant imagery that comes into ones mind as they think of this, as you explore what we know about anthropology it will become more apparent that it is this model that makes the most sense.
Through fossil, and genetic evidence we have learned that the way our origins occurred was not one species at a time. Afarcanus did not turn into afarensis and that was the end of it. For a time they shared this earth, as the changes and transformations continued. As the “stream” flows.
When one continues a tree, you have the branch, lets use africanus again. The branch that the africanus branch would stem from the anamensis branch, and those two would continue onto africanus . One turning into the other as time and evolution moved on.
But as has been said, we have learned differently. Multitudes of human species coexisted on Earth at the same time, ever changing and ever flowing. Genes coming in and out, interbreeding occurring and reoccurring in different areas, while some couple with those from far and wide. The spread of genes, the gene flow just adds to the power of the river.
The braided stream model reflects more properly the path of human evolution, of how species transformed slowly over time, gaining and losing traits and species as it goes, all leading back to an original estuary and ocean.
Many people prefer the tree model, but the braided stream is the newest, and thus far most accurate representation of hominid evolution, and should be taught in schools to anthropology students, alongside, if not instead of, the family tree model.
What are your views on the new way of interpreting human evolution?
Do you still stick to the linear model? Why or why not?
Let us know in the comments below.