History and reality of the genus ‘Homo’: What is it and why do we think so?


Paleoanthropologists who worry about how nature is organized into species, and about what we should call them, are very often accused by their peers of «just arguing about names». This implies that basic taxonomy is a boring clerical operation that should be dispensed with as quickly as possible or even ignored, so that we can get to the really interesting questions about human evolution. Yet the reality is that we shall never understand the events of the intricate human evolutionary play if we cannot accurately identify the actors who participated in that drama. This article looks briefly at how our current supremely woolly concept of the genus Homo has come about, as background for urging a more rational approach to defining it.


taxonomy; genera; genus 'Homo'; palaeoanthropology

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