Group Charter - sci.anthropology.paleo

Daniel Yee (
15 Jul 1995 17:06:40 +1000

sci.anthropology.paleo Charter

[ Last revised 24rd January 1995. A hypertext version is available at: ]


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,
brain size, 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 popular subjects that would find a place in sci.anthropology.paleo:

* The "African Eve" vs multi-regionalism debate

* The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis


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 is often critical to their self-identification
(Frederik Barth, _Ethnic Groups and Boundaries_, 1969). So in order
to explain what belongs in sci.anthropology.paleo a discussion of its
boundaries with "neighbouring" newsgroups may help.

***,, bionet.molbio.evolution

Discussions specific 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
or as appropriate. Some material should obviously
be cross-posted; some sample questions would be:

* Is there evidence for punctuated equilibrium in human evolution?

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

***,,, bionet.population-bio

In general anything specific to primate or human biology,
population genetics, ecology or ethology should be posted to
sci.anthropology.paleo. If the material is of general interest it
should also be cross-posted to the appropriate groups. Some examples:

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

* Application of new ideas in foraging theory to early hominid
evolution. (

* Methodologies in primate ethology. (

*** 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 (and in particular of "scientific"
creationism) belongs in; it is not appropriate for
sci.anthropology.paleo. It is envisaged that there will be very
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 in

*** 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 to 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 (a la Von Daniken)
belong in these groups, and are not appropriate for sci.anthropology.paleo.


Please note that the above are only guidelines. Posters should use
their own discretion, but they are encouraged to think carefully
about both the Newsgroups: and Followup-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.

Danny Yee (