Christopher J. Percival, Joan T. Richtsmeier

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingForeword/postscript


There is little doubt that much of what we know in biological anthropology is based on the experimentation with and excavation, measurement, and analysis of mineralized tissues. From the earliest excavation and recovery of fossil primate specimens, anthropologists have routinely used comparative skeletal materials and particular features on those materials to classify human and nonhuman primate species and to infer evolutionary relationships. Although early studies of skeletal biomechanics were primarily done by anatomists and orthopedists, anthropologists adopted biomechanical principles to infer activity from the shape of bones and to make inferences about life histories and habitual behaviors in the early part of the twentieth century (Washburn, 1951; Ruff, 2008). Our current interpretation of human and nonhuman primate origins and evolutionary history is still based primarily on osseous traits, although genetic and genomic data are being effectively used to resolve phylogenetic relationships that have resisted consensus based solely on skeletal traits (e.g., Perelman et al., 2011; Meyer et al., 2016). Currently, anthropologists explicitly recognize that the development and evolution of mineralized tissues are intertwined, with changes in developmental processes serving as a basis for phenotypic change (e.g., Lovejoy et al., 1999; Chiu and Hamrick, 2002; Hlusko et al., 2004). Consequently, anthropologists have been early adopters of technologies and approaches from other disciplines (e.g., genome-wide association study (GWAS), quantitative trail locus (QTL) analysis, quantitative imaging, breeding experiments), and have contributed to the design of new methods to acquire and measure data pertaining to changing biomechanical properties and to ontogenetic change of mineralized tissues (e.g., Cheverud et al., 1983; Ruff and Hayes, 1983; Richtsmeier et al., 1992; Richtsmeier and Lele, 1993; Smith and Tompkins, 1995; Strait et al., 2005, 2007; Slice, 2007; Raichlen et al., 2015). The adoption of a developmental focus has helped to shift emphasis away from the anatomy and classification of particular skeletal traits towards questions pertaining to developmental processes that underlie the production of those traits and their variation (Hallgrímsson & Lieberman, 2008; Reno et al., 2008; Hallgrímsson et al., 2009; Young et al., 2010; Serrat, 2013; Kjosness et al., 2014; Reno, 2014; Rolian, 2014). In this way, anthropological analyses of skeletal remains have expanded from comparisons based on external features and metrics that are used to build phylogenies to the advance of approaches aimed at uncovering the developmental basis for variation in skeletal morphology and evolution.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationBuilding Bones
Subtitle of host publicationBone Formation and Development in Anthropology
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781316388907
ISBN (Print)9781107122789
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Social Sciences


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