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Chapter 4 : Biological beginnings to Human Culture Anthropology is a bio-cultural science. I) Evolution through Physical Adaptation A) a series of changes in the genetic make-up of populations adapts organisms to their environment over very long periods of time. B) Natural Selection is the mechanism by which evolution appears to be carried out. Humans, like all living organisms, are subject to the processes of natural selection. C) Cultural Adaptation is not the same as physical evolution, but evolution can serve as a general model. Humans do not only adapt to the environment through physical change; we shape our environment to suit human needs and desires. D) The point of this chapter is to trace the beginnings of human culture by looking for clues in the ancestral records. II. Humans and Other Primates (yes, humans are primates) A) Humans are closely related genetically to other species in the Primate Order. Name the other great apes. Why do primatologists study primates, especially great apes? Because human culture is rooted in our mammalian primate biology... meaning? B) Primates have a specific set of physical characteristics derived as adaptive to their early arboreal environment (life in the trees): 1) progressively generalized dentition (omnivore diet = able to eat anything) 2) reduction in sense of smell (although new research indicates that as much as 5% of human DNA is devoted to sense of smell, more than any other physical sense!) 3) stereoscopic vision for accuracy in judging distance and depth 4) acute sense of touch (sensitive finger and toe pads protected by nails, not claws) 5) brain: enlarged cerebral cortex led to developing flexible behavior patterns 6) skeletal structure: flexible, generalized, led to opposable thumb for grasping and flexible shoulder arrangement for brachiation (ability to swing arms directly overhead) C) Primate Behavioral Characteristics: adaptation through learned behavior 1) Chimpanzees and Bonobos exhibit many human cultural characteristics presumably found in our genetic common ancestors: a) social animals; larger groups divided into smaller sub-groups b) dominance and status hierarchies, physical and emotional manipulation c) grooming behavior, food-sharing, communal hunting, political alliances d) codes of sexual behavior: sex is not just for procreation. Both bonobos and humans have hidden estrus or concealed ovulation, which contributes to sexual receptivity for social reasons and pleasure. e) enormous capacity for learning complex cultural behaviors, including making and using tools 2) Note the cultural differences and motivations for hunting practices between the Gombe chimps (mating) and the Tai National Park chimps (group cohesion and status reward).... View Full Document

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