sci.anthropology.paleo - Charter

Daniel Yee (
2 Jan 1995 23:02:10 +1100


sci.anthropology.paleo is for the discussion of the evolution of the
genus Homo, and more generally of the primates. Some of the topics
likely to be covered include:

* primatology (primate social interactions, comparative morphology, ape
languages, etc.)

* paleoanthropology "proper" (discussion of new fossil finds, etc.)

* the origins of human language and cognition

* the origins of distinctive human morphological features (bipedalism,
big brain, hairlessness, etc.)

* biological and genetic variation in Homo sapiens relevant to our evolution
(e.g. mitochondrial DNA studies)

* sociobiological arguments that rely on evolutionary considerations.


Some subjects recently debated that would find a place in

* The "African Eve" vs multi-regionalism debate

* The Aquatic Ape


Often it is easier to define something by explaining what it isn't, or
by looking at its boundaries with similar entities. An example of this
from biology is the Biological Species Concept, where species are
defined in terms of the mechanisms separating them from other species
(Ernst Mayr, 1969b); in anthropology the nature of the boundaries
between different groups are often critical to their self-identification
(see Frederik Barth, _Ethnic Groups and Boundaries_, 1969). So in order
to explain what belongs in sci.anthropology.paleo a discussion of the
boundaries with the "neighbouring" newsgroups may help.

*** (if created),, bionet.molbio.evolution

Discussions particular to human or primate evolution belong in
sci.anthropology.paleo; those on general evolutionary principles and on
the specific evolutionary histories of other taxa in
There is some overlap in the application of general theories, methods
and models of evolutionary biology to the primates in particular. There
are also significant overlaps with and bionet.molbio, and some
crossposting is expected there.

Some sample questions that would make appropriate crossposts are:

* Is there evidence for punctuated equilibrium in human evolution?

* What are the physiological features of aquatic mammals that are shared
by man? (

* How does the latest work on molecular clocks tie in with the dating of
the Pan/Homo split? (bionet.molbio.evolution)

*** sci.anthropology (with acknowledgements to Cameron Laird)

In general anything which refers directly to human evolution
should be posted to sci.anthropology.paleo. Some examples of
questions which should be crossposted are:

* What material constraints (water, temperature, energy, protein, ...)
limit traditional human cultures which exploit savannahs? Should we
expect the same to be true of australopithecines?

* Where can I find the best contemporary data which might speak to
multi-regional origins of our species? Has anyone updated [Smith 1991]
on continuities in jaw anatomy between neanderthals and modern

* The sizes of viable cultural communities recorded in HRAF seem to
bottom out around several hundred. Paleo-anthropologists most often
talk about bands of at most two dozen hominids. When did our ancestors
start identifying with larger groups?


Discussion of religious issues belongs in; it is not
appropriate for sci.anthropology.paleo. It is envisaged that there will
be few crossposts between the two groups, and those that do occur will
narrow followups to one of the groups. Appropriate material for a
crosspost might be a request for information on a scientific aspect of
human evolution that happens to be important in the context of a debate

*** sci.lang, alt.memetics

Discussion of non-biological (linguistic or cultural) evolution is not
within the sci.anthropology.paleo charter. Discussion of the relevance
of ape language experiments to understanding of the origins of human
language could appropriately be cross-posted between sci.lang and

*** sci.cognitive

Discussion of the origins of human cognitive abilities might be
appropriately crossposted to sci.cognitive and sci.anthropology.paleo.
An example would be the invocation of evolutionary arguments in
_Consciousness Explained_ (Dennett 1991).

*** alt.alien.visitors, sci.skeptic

Claims of extraterrestrial involvement in human origins belong in these


Please note, however, that the above are only guidelines. Posters should
use their own discretion, but they are encouraged to think about both the
Newsgroups: and Followups-To: lines of their posts. I can't imagine a
sensible crosspost to sci.anthropology.paleo and comp.os.research, but I
wouldn't want to rule out the possibility a priori.