Semantics? (Homo species)

Prockstroh (
19 Dec 1996 04:12:58 GMT


I'm an anthropology major with a question that has been bugging me for a
while. I've asked several professors, but they always get kind of crabby
about it.

I've been wondering why it is that, whenever someone finds a new jawbone
or skeleton or whatever that resembles us in some way, they call it Homo
boisei or Homo habilis or Homo XXX, rather than just plain old Homo
sapiens. Usually, the difference is based on a slight skeletal difference
(jawbone? skull size? Physical anthro. is not my strong point).

If you look at, say, a Chihuahua skeleton compared to that of a
Rottweiler, you see all kinds of differences, but they're still the same
subspecies. So why are humans put in all these different groups?

One professor gave me the cold freeze when I asked her about it. Another
said it was just a semantic difference that only applied to humans. Yet
another went off on a tangent and never really got around to addressing
the question. I figure that it never hurts to ask the same question over
and get new ideas.