Session 7: Histories of Prehistory: The past, present and future of palaeoanthropology

Format: Standard

Organiser: Lucy Timbrell


Palaeoanthropology, by definition, is a discipline concerned with the deep past, exploring the stories about how we became human, such as the evolution of language and culture. Such narratives highlight the role of the paleoanthropologist to look back into our species evolutionary history to better understand our present and future, and yet we rarely consider the role of history in the shaping of palaeoanthropology. Acknowledging the history of our discipline deserves focus in its own right as, in the same way that paleoanthropological research influences our understanding of our current selves, historical contexts have driven modern approaches to the deep past. As such, through revisiting the history of palaeoanthropology, we can critically assess long-held assumptions in our discipline, such as typological categories and temporal divisions, in the light of new discoveries and research. This session aims to explore the ‘life’ of our discipline and offer essential context concerning the origins of paleoanthropological theory, frameworks and methods, providing a forum for discussions about the suitability of these ideas in modern practise. Papers are encouraged that engage with the history of palaeoanthropology in any given region or time period in both celebration and critical evaluation of the research in these areas. Papers are welcomed that explore the life of historical figures and their role and contribution to the shaping of palaeoanthropology.  

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