a photo of a beach tower in Mission Bay with wetlands in the foreground, houses and palm trees in the horizon, a bright sun, with the journal title in a script font.

Spring 2022 San Diego Community College Student Anthropology Journal

Edited by Nicholas Palos

Published by Arnie Schoenberg


Volume 5 Issue 1

Spring, 2021

latest update: 8/15/22

Creative Commons License CC BY-NC

Unless otherwise noted, this work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)

More issues at http://arnieschoenberg.com/anth/journal/

contact: prof@arnieschoenberg.com

Table of Contents

Preface by Nicholas Palos

The Anthropology of Climate Change” by Jessica Robles

LGBTQ Phobia Myths Destroyed by Anthropology” by Henrique Machado

Cyborgs and Anthropology: How Tool Use Connects the Post-Human to our Ancestors” by Omar Mora

Do Other Great Apes Communicate Like Humans?” by Kevin Townsend 

Biological Warfare in Palestine” by Kai Baskett 

Separation of ‘Human’ from ‘Ape’”  by Tugrul Efe Basaran

Analyzing Landscape Paintings in Terms of Ecological Adaptations” by Jordan Maus 

Anthropological Aesthetics” by Ella Geonzon and Nicholas Roberge

Preface by Nicholas Palos

“The Anthropology of Climate Change”

San Francisco Native and San Diego City College student, Jessica Robles, has written an informative article that shows readers how and why climate change (both warming and cooling) is an extremely relevant topic in the Anthropological world. Climate Change is actively impacting our planet at a faster rate than we can precisely comprehend; we are watching our world forcefully change by the hands of our own. Readers will be informed on the history of climate change, human evolution, and how humans have dramatically impacted the process since the start of the Industrial Revolution.

“LGBTQ Phobia Myths Destroyed by Anthropology”

Henrique Machado, a Native Brazilian who earned his bachelor’s degree in Social Communication, has written a revealing article that explains the unfair treatment that members of the LGBTQ+ community experience in their everyday lives. Henrique writes about his personal experiences as a member of the LGBTQ+ community living in a country that enforces laws that condemn and harshly punish LGBTQ+ community members. Henrique explains how Anthropology can be used to fight homophobia and dispel myths about sexuality. For hundreds of years, most of society has rejected anyone who has chosen a sexual preference that does not align with traditional ways of living, reading this article will give you a unique perspective from someone who has lived through the rejection and has found a way to flourish in life no matter the barriers that were set in the way.

“Cyborgs and Anthropology: How Tool Use Connects the Post-Human to our Ancestors”

Economics major, Omar Mora, has written a fascinating article that gives readers a chance to momentarily step into our inevitable future, by examining our past. Omar explains that paradigm shifts like transhumanism seem relatively natural considering how humans have already transcended technological borders previously thought uncrossable.. Readers can gain a modern George Orwell’s 1984 type of perspective on what the current generation believes will become our future way of living. 

“Do Other Great Apes Communicate Like Humans”

San Diego City College Student, Kevin Townsend, has written an intriguing essay that examines the communicative similarities between humans and primates like chimpanzees and gorillas. With primates like gorillas and chimpanzees having bodily features that strongly resemble human beings, do we ever consider that they may think and/or communicate in ways that are practiced today? Kevin provides ample information that allows readers to gain their own understanding on the matter.

 “Biological Warfare in Palestine”

San Diego City College student, Kai Baskett, has written a powerful article that sheds light on the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine. Readers will learn how Israel is using biological warfare against the Palestinians by denying COVID vaccines, and how the warfare is affecting the Palestinian population.

“Separation of ‘Human’ from ‘Ape’”

Connecticut Native and San Diego Miramar College student, Efe Basaran, has written an illustrative article that reviews the human species timeline and explores when we split from our closely related primate species many years ago. Understanding the biological evolution of our ancestors can help modern humans understand how our species will continue to inevitably evolve. Readers will learn interesting facts about the primate species that came before us.

“Analyzing Landscape Paintings in Terms of Ecological Adaptations”

Midwest Native, Jordan Maus, has written an entrancing essay that explains some of the mysterious reasons why our ancestors left behind so many carvings and paintings in the landscapes that surround us. Readers will learn about some of the complex origins and attributes that landscape art and music offer.

“Anthropological Aesthetics”

San Diego Native, Nicholas Roberge and San Diego City College student Ella Geonzon, have written an interesting article that gives readers visualizing takes on what humans have become attracted to as our species has evolved throughout history. Have you ever wondered exactly why you are attracted to the people you are attracted to? Is it because of their eye color? Or is it because they are tall? Is it because their faces are symmetrical? Readers can learn some of the scientific reasoning that explains why we have preferences when choosing a potential mate.


“The Anthropology of Climate Change” by Jessica Robles 

Anthropology is defined as the study of humans, and you may be wondering, what does the study of humans have to do with climate change? Well, the evolution of humans has everything to do with changes in the environment. Learning the behavior and the history behind why humans are the way they are gives us a better understanding of how exactly climate change came to be. Anthropologists today are playing a big role in understanding climate change. They are doing this by examining why it has escalated throughout the years. They are not only doing this by using biological factors in their research, like studying how climate change can disrupt the match between organisms and their local environment,  but what makes the role of anthropologists a key factor in understanding climate change is that they are also using cultural factors in their study (Baer & Reuter, 2015). Anthropology talks about both the biological perspective and the cultural perspective. For example, “when we talk about drastic biological change we can talk about evolution and the adaptive radiation of large groups of species into ecological niches over millions of years. When we talk about drastic cultural change we are talking about revolution” (Schoenberg, 2016:8). Studying anthropology from a more cultural perspective allows anthropologists to examine all facets of human-environment relations. For example, a study that was conducted by Hans A. Baer and Thomas Reuter (2015) of human ancestors from Africa, and their subsequent dispersal to Eurasia, Australia, and the Americas, in order to examine the role of primarily natural climate change in the biocultural evolution of humans. Their hypothesis was that anthropogenic climate change began when the industrial revolution was happening, and it is heavily characterized by reliance on fossil fuels (Baer & Reuter, 2015). After World War II, the global economy began to promote and rely on relentless consumption of manufactured products. This economic model has diffused from the first industrialized countries to the developing world through trade, foreign investment, aid, and development programs, and its sustainability implications are not confined to anthropogenic climate change. To confirm their hypothesis they looked at sustainability issues on two different scales. They participated in the formulation of environmental policies and examining and becoming more involved in the environmental movement that supports social, technological, and economic changes toward long-term sustainable practices. This research study is a perfect example of how anthropologists are combining both cultural and biological factors in understanding climate change. Now that you know why anthropology plays a big role in understanding climate change, let’s look into why climate change is a new problem today and why other primates or hominin ancestors didn’t cause global warming?

Humans and the environment have always had a connection. “Around two million years ago, climate changes decreased the amount of forest and expanded grasslands in Africa, which led to the early Hominin radiation (the geographic expansion of multiple Hominin species)” (Palmer 2020). This climate change led the hominin species to walk upright, which then freed their hands to make tools. This is a perfect example of how climate has an effect on the human species then and now. If climate change occurred even when humans weren’t fully developed, why didn’t other primates or hominin ancestors cause global warming?

Although climate change is inevitable, the type of climate changes that early hominins experienced were naturally caused. These changes are separated into short and long time periods, for example, changes that occurred over a short time included: seasonal variations in the amount of temperature, light and precipitation. Long time periods included, hominins experiencing large-scale shifts in temperature and precipitation that, in turn, caused vast changes in vegetation – shifts from grasslands and shrublands to woodlands and forests, and also from cold to warm climates (Potts 2020). Hominin environments were also changed by tectonics, which included earthquakes and uplift. Tectonic activity changed the location and the size of their environment, for example lakes and rivers (Potts 2020). These changes lasted years and were unexpected to hominins, which made them uncertain of their survival condition. However, one of the main characteristics that humans have is the ability to adjust to a variety of different environments and habitats. Which is another reason why hominins weren’t as affected by climate change because of their ability to culturally adapt to their environment quickly.

Adaptation to the changes of the environment, especially when the changes rely on climate, play a big role in human evolution. For example, certain adaptations like walking upright and tool-making are linked to drier habitats and the spread of grasslands. This is also known as the Savanna hypothesis. “The Savanna Hypothesis states that we retain genetically based preferences for features of high-quality African savannas where our ancestors lived when their brains and bodies evolved into their modern forms” (Orians 2016). According to this hypothesis, “many human adaptations arose in the African Savanna or were influenced by the environment; pressure of an expanding dry grassland” (Potts 2020). Another hypothesis that was introduced by Dr. Rick Potts is called Variability Selection, in which it is believed that, “the key events in human evolution were shaped not by any single type of habitat (e.g., grassland) or environmental trend (e.g. drying) but rather by environmental instability.” This hypothesis is different from the Savanna hypothesis because it calls attention to the fact that the genus Homo was not limited to one type of environment. Throughout human evolution, human ancestors expanded their ability to cope with changing habitats because of climate fluctuation rather than staying in a single type of environment and specializing in it.

Another way hominins respond to environmental change is through evolving structures and behaviors that can be used to survive with different environments, which is another characteristic of the previous hypothesis mentioned, variability selection. “To test the variability selection hypothesis, and to compare it with habitat-specific hypotheses, Potts examined the hominin fossil record and the records of environmental change during the time of human evolution” (Potts 2020).  What Potts discovered from his research was that environmental instability is a key factor when it comes to human adaptations. During times when the environmental variability increased, new adaptations occurred, these new adaptations bettered the ability of early human ancestors to adapt to habitat change and environmental diversity (Potts 2020). The records between hominin fossils and the environment show that hominins developed during an environmentally variable time. “Higher variability occurred as changes in seasonality produced large-scale environmental fluctuations over periods that often lasted tens of thousands of years" (Potts 2020). To conclude on the variability hypothesis, this hypothesis suggests that human traits developed over time because human ancestors adjusted to environmental uncertainty and change.

Change in the environment led to rapid evolution. The long-term role of climate change in human evolution has been considered by many paleontologists and archeologists. “Climate change appears to have played a prominent role in the formation of various civilizations” (Baer and Singer, 2014: 4). Not only have humans changed their natural environments but they have also changed themselves.  The earth has gone through periods of both relative stability and dramatic changes such as glacial periods, and thermals. “Throughout the sweep of time, climate conditions have interacted with the tendency of life forms (in this case, our pre-human and human ancestors) toward biological dispersal across local environments” (Baer and Singer 2014: 41).

 The Cenozoic (which means the “new life”) starts with the extinction of most dinosaur species and continues to the present life. Hominin evolutions began in the last 10 million years or so. About 8 to 5 million years ago the earth experienced a drying and cooling period. Behringer, the author of A Cultural History of Climate Change says:

The entry of ash and aerosol into the stratosphere led to rapid cooling by as much as 15 degrees celsius in particular regions and 5 degrees worldwide, for a period that lasted a number of years. The ‘volcanic winter’ interfered with plant growth and therefore had a negative effect on the food chain on both land and sea. Tropical vegetation must have been largely destroyed, and the forest seriously harmed in temperate regions. The surviving vegetation would have suffered a severe disturbance and taken decades to recover. [Behringer 2006: 32]

This explains why Homo sapiens was brought to the verge of extinction. Earth has experienced ten major and 40 minor episodes of glaciations over the past million years (Baer and Singer, 2014: 42). These episodes occurred because of the Milankovitch cycle, which is defined as “cyclical movement related to the Earth's orbit around the Sun. There are three of them: eccentricity, axial tilt, and precession” (Villanueva 2009). This shift of the earth’s axis causes the beginning and ending of ice ages.

Steven M. Stanley, who is a geologist, shares a theory that the modern ice age contributed to the evolution from Australopithecus to Homo sapiens. He explains that this happened because of the altering African landscape which led to an extinction of Australopithecus (Baer and Singer, 2014: 43). As climate change shrunk the African rain forest in the middle of the Pliocene epoch around the time of the ice age, Australopithecus began to die because despite them being bipedal, they had to tree climb in order to find refuge from predators. Meaning when the forest shrunk, they had fewer trees to find refuge which resulted in them being killed by their predators, which were saber-toothed and leopard-type cats, crocodiles, and hyenas. Which is why paleontologists and archeologists discovered bones that had been gnawed on by carnivores of our ancient ancestors  (Baer and Singer, 2014: 44).

Throughout the unpredictable instability, environmental and climatic pressures contributed to the evolution of a larger brain for some Australopithecus around 2.4 million years ago, which then began the evolution of a new genus, Homo. This new genus was able to evolve and survive by creating stone tools to compete with carnivores (Baer and Singer, 2014: 44). Although the Homo sapiens is the one species that is always talked about because it lived in the modern age, there were many more types of species that evolved years before. (Potts, 1996: 216) mentions that in his observation there had been between eight and thirteen distinct species that were bipedal; hominids, including  Homo habilis and Homo erectus. This observation led paleoanthropologists to identify and debate several new categories of proto-hominids and early hominids, as well as new named members of the hominid family to our branch rich family tree.

In the period between 500,000 and 200,000 years ago there was a constant process of human diversification (Potts 1996). Scientists believe that all hominids who lived during that period were members of the same evolutionary line that connected Homo erectus to modern Homo sapiens, however, other researchers believe that according to the paleontological record there was four different species of humans during that era which included “Homo erectus living in eastern Asia, Homo heidelbergensis dwelling in Europe, some poorly known populations of archaic Homo sapiens occupying Africa, and toward the end of this time range, the Neanderthals, who evolved in Europe and western Asia, living in Africa”  (Baer and Singer, 2014: 45).

Many of these previously mentioned species migrated out of where they were staying due to drastic climate change. Homo heidelbergensis left northern Eurasia because of the glacials. The Neanderthals moved into sheltered valleys and warmer environments, like Italy and south of the Pyrenees, as well as other evolving species such as the Cro-Magnons. Cro-magnons, unlike neanderthals, have never been considered a separate species from Homo sapiens; they are the earliest known European example of our own species. A Cro-magnon used tools, spoke, made weapons, lived in huts, wove cloths, and even came up with a calendar (Books 2013). While these new species were stationed in Europe, the climate quickly changed, becoming warmer.

After the last glacial period took place, new technological innovations were introduced which included large settlements in northern Eurasia and dwelling units with fireplaces in south Siberia and kilns were used to fire ceramics in Northern Eurasia. These innovations were produced because of the powerful climate swings that led to large fluctuations in supplies. Looking back from the first species to the modern Homo sapiens, extinction and evolution is all related to climate change and environment. “We have become the beings we now see in the mirror through our interactions with shifting climate/environment, and, as the capacities born of this interface grew, especially the cultural capacities, we have, in turn, shaped the world around us”  (Baer and Singer, 2014: 47).

There are many studies out there that prove that human evolution and climate change are connected. For example, there is a clear correlation between carbon dioxide emissions from human activity (Lee 2020). Over the 20th century the atmospheric concentrations of key greenhouse gasses have increased, causing the earth’s energy budget to go out of balance. This is one of the many reasons why global warming is a problem in today’s society. The effects that carbon dioxide has on climate change includes: the melting of the polar ice caps, the rising of sea levels, the disturbance of animals' natural habitats, and extreme weather events. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s fifth assessment report, they stated that it is “extremely likely that more than half of the observed increase in global average surface temperature” from 1951 to 2010.

While there are many reasons why humanity contributed to climate change, another question is how do we know the earth’s climate has changed? How do we know the climate wasn’t the same as it is today?

One important line of evidence is the record of oxygen isotopes through time. This record of δ18O, or oxygen stable isotopes, comes from measuring oxygen in the microscopic skeletons of foraminifera (forams, for short) that lived on the seafloor.  This measure can be used as an indicator of changing temperature and glacial ice over time. There are two main trends:  an overall decrease in temperature and a larger degree of climate fluctuation over time. The amount of variability in environmental conditions was greater in the later stages of human evolution than in the earlier stages. [Calvin 2002]

Dr. Rick Potts of the Smithsonian Human Origins program explains that one of the main reasons why scientists who study climate change can see actual evidence of climate change is because of the record of oxygen isotopes over time. Isotopes are “atoms of the same element that have a different number of neutrons (Ocean Sediments, 2019). In a graph shown in the study, it shows a ten million-year record of stable oxygen isotopes. In the graph, it illustrates that the temperature of the global ocean and glacial ice has varied over the past six million years, which was the period of human evolution  (Ocean Sediments, 2019). Oxygen’s most common isotope has a mass number of 16. Scientists determine the earth’s climate with the oxygen’s isotope by understanding that in a warmer climate ocean water would have more oxygen-16 isotopes because as ice sheets melt, the water is returned to the ocean.

Another way of determining past temperature is by the ocean sediments. “The deep ocean floor provides another clue of what was happening in the atmosphere and in the oceans at the time the sediments were deposited” (Hausfather 2017). The sediment cores that are extracted from the ocean floor provide a continuous record of sedimentation dating back hundreds of thousands of years in certain places. For example, a sediment core from the equatorial eastern Pacific ocean shows the climate history as far back as five million years. This is possible because of microscopic marine organisms, such as foraminifera. They are found in ocean floor sediments and they pick up oxygen content from seawater to make carbonate shells. Which then, “the ocean floor sediment cores would contain microscopic shells with more of the heavier oxygen (18O) in a cooler climate,” (Hausfather 2017). Which gives scientists a better understanding of how much climate has changed throughout the years.

Another study that was done on global cooling was from William H. Calvin, where he says that one of the main causes of climate change is cooling. His hypothesis is that climate change drastically changes within years and one of the main ideas he argues is that drastic change in climate is mainly caused by earth’s abrupt cooling. In the excerpt of his book,  “A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change,” Calvin (2002) mentions that cooling is far more dangerous than global warming itself. He continues by saying that,  “When ‘climate change’ is referred to in the press, it normally means greenhouse warming, which, it is predicted, will cause flooding, severe windstorms, and killer heat waves. But warming could also lead, paradoxically, to abrupt and drastic cooling (‘Global warming's evil twin’)—a catastrophe that could threaten the end of civilization” (Calvin 2002). By this he means that when talking about climate change, the main cause of it that is always highlighted is warming but cooling has far more dangerous consequences. 

To test his hypothesis on abrupt cooling, Calvin took a trip to hominid settings in Europe and Africa with “an over-the-pole flight that looks down on the probable origins of the abrupt climate change” (Calvin 2002). During the trip he focused on the whirlpools in the North Atlantic ocean near Greenland, where he studied why abrupt cooling happens. Calvin discovered  that many climate changes are not regular affairs, he explains this by comparing it to turning up the thermostat, Calvin says that “abrupt climate changes are more like a light switch that suddenly, at some pressure, flips into an alternative state.”  He came to this conclusion during his trip to Europe where he saw that the whirlpools flushed the cooled surface waters down into ocean depths that brought more warm surface water into the far north. “This keeps Europe—and, surprisingly, much of the rest of the world as well—a lot warmer, much of the time. Except, of course, when the northerly whirlpools fail” (Calvin 2002). Meaning when whirlpools fail, climate collapse can be triggered because gradual warming can trigger abrupt cooling. Calvin concluded that climate change is something that happens with no warning at all. Whether it is global warming or cooling, these catastrophes are happening as we speak. He also points out that many people in the media don’t share the fear of what could happen if cooling does happen on earth, but cooling can be extremely dangerous and can lead to many deaths. “We could go back to ice-age temperatures within a decade—and judging from recent discoveries, an abrupt cooling could be triggered by our current global-warming trend” (Calvin 2002). Calvin mentions that from his study and many other discoveries, it is proven that global warming can eventually lead to an abrupt cooling on earth.

The history behind climate change and the connection it has to human evolution is important when understanding climate change today. Climate change today is a big issue that is increasingly affecting the earth. With new technology that we have now comes a lot of consequences, global warming being one of them. Global warming dates back to the beginning of industrialization. The industrial revolution heavily relied on fossil fuels, which then produced a large number of carbon dioxide when burned. (Denchak 2018). Behringer, author of A Cultural History of Climate says: “The term ‘industrial revolution’, which first appeared in the 1840s, denotes a fundamental transformation in human history. Many compare its importance to that of the ‘Neothlithic Revolution,’ the transition from hunting to agriculture on the threshold of the Late Stone Age. In both cases we speak of revolution because the developments in question, though initially local, spread around the world and changed human life so radically that a return to earlier conditions was no longer conceivable” (Behringer 2010).

Around the 1960s, temperatures tended to change from warm to cold. Some even thought that it was going to end up being a new modern ice age. After 1940, temperatures dropped but no one paid attention due to the ongoing research that was global warming, but what was to come for the next years was far more dangerous than global warming and that is global cooling (Behringer 2010). Finding the answer for global cooling had a much more complex research plan than global warming because it not only included studying natural causes but scientists also searched for anthropogenic factors. The first factor they began studying was atmospheric pollution resulting from industrialization and the use of combustion engines in private transport (Behringer 2010).

Their reasoning behind cooling was that it was caused by humans. Some of the things that humans did that caused global cooling were: population growth, rapid urbanization and industrialization. Scientists continued their research and concluded that "the cooling was blamed on a filter effect, which no longer allowed sunlight to reach the earth's surface: this was called ‘global dimming.’ Atmospheric ‘turbidity’ outweighed the influence of carbon dioxide emissions, themselves also due to human activity. It was conceded that all manner of natural processes, such as desert storms or bush fires, also produced dust in the atmosphere" (Behringer 2010).

All of these causes were made by humans, which concluded their hypothesis to be correct, that the main cause of temperature fluctuation is due to human activity.

To conclude, anthropology has a lot to do with climate change. Climate change started because of humans, and in order to understand why this is, it is important to understand the evolution of humans. Understanding the evolution of humans gives us a perspective on the timeline of climate change. From knowing how early Homo sapiens dealt with natural environmental change to how it has escalated throughout the years. It is safe to say that our environment has obviously played a big role in human evolution, and anthropologists and other social scientists are getting more involved every day in understanding climate change. According to Hans A. Baer and Thomas Reuter, “natural scientists generally are not in a good position to develop a detailed understanding of the ways social systems operate, either at the macro- or the micro-levels or how they contribute to climate change and various other forms of environmental damage.” Meaning that anthropologists and other social scientists have a better understanding and can use their analytical skills to analyze problems and create more sustainable solutions that will help human life and protect the environment.


“Analysis: Why Scientists Think 100% of Global Warming Is Due to Humans.” Carbon Brief, 28 Jan. 2020, www.carbonbrief.org/analysis-why-scientists-think-100-of-global-warming-is-due-to-humans.

Baer, Hans, and Merrill Singer. The Anthropology of Climate Change: An Integrated Critical Perspective. Routledge, 2014.

Baer, Hans A, and Thomas Reuter. Anthropological Perspectives on Climate Change and Sustainability: Implications for Policy and Action, 2015,


 Behringer, Wolfgang. A cultural history of climate. Polity, 2010.

Calvin, William H. A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change, Excerpt, press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/092011.html.

Denchak, Melissa Denchak, June 29, 2018. “Fossil Fuels: The Dirty Facts.” NRDC, 4 Mar. 2021, www.nrdc.org/stories/fossil-fuels-dirty-facts.

Schoenberg, Arnie. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 2021. www.arnieschoenberg.com/anth/bio/intro/index.html.

Lee, Howard. “How Earth's Climate Changes Naturally (and Why Things Are Different Now).” Quanta Magazine, www.quantamagazine.org/how-earths-climate-changes-naturally-and-why-things-are-different-now-20200721/.

Mental Floss. “Neanderthal vs. Cro-Magnon: What's the Difference?” Mental Floss, 6 Sept. 2013, www.mentalfloss.com/article/19428/neanderthal-vs-cro-magnon-whats-difference.

Orians G.H. (2016) Savanna Hypothesis, The. In: Weekes-Shackelford V., Shackelford T., Weekes-Shackelford V. (eds) Encyclopedia of Evolutionary Psychological Science. Springer, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-16999-6_2930-1

Potts, R., 1996. Humanity's Descent: The Consequences of Ecological Instability. William Morrow & Co., New York, 325pp.

Florida Atlantic University. “Climate Science Investigations South Florida - Temperature Over Time”, www.ces.fau.edu/nasa/module-3/how-is-temperature-measured/ocean-sediments.php.

Smithsonian. "Climate Effects on Human Evolution | The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program". humanorigins.si.edu/research/climate-and-human-evolution/climate-effects-human-evolution.

 Villanueva, John Carl. “Milankovitch Cycle.” Universe Today. 25 Dec. 2015, www.universetoday.com/39012/milankovitch-cycle.

About the author:

My name is Jessica Robles, I was born in San Francisco, California, but moved to San Diego my freshman year of high school. This is currently my second semester at San Diego City College, after my studies at City, I plan to transfer to a 4 -year university on the east coast to study environmental studies. I am not only taking this class to fulfill my requirements but to also gain knowledge on an unfamiliar topic. I love learning and hope this class will bring me new insight into my life.

“LGBTQ Phobia Myths Destroyed by Anthropology” by Henrique Machado


When I decided to take an Introduction to Biological Anthropology class, I wanted to understand how anthropology explains sexual orientation and gender. I’m gay and I came a long way to accept myself. I researched how LGBTQ phobia myths can be destroyed by anthropology. Anthropology is a science that studies the past and the present of people, with a focus on understanding the human condition both culturally and biologically. We will explore how anthropology can help us better understand world affairs and world problems; in a way that interprets the meaning of social actions by placing them with as much context as possible. We will also gain a deeper insight into humankind, in all places and all of your identity as part of a culture. Through action anthropology, we can tear down LGBTQ phobic arguments.

About the myths

The first myth that we will talk about is that homosexuality is unatural. People view homosexuality as unnatural because they feel disgusted when they see it. This myth was discussed in an article written by Dr. Carie Hersh (2016), American cultural anthropologist, and anthropology professor at Northeastern University. The clarification of this myth is very important because around 30 years ago homosexuality was classified a disease. We celebrate May 17, 1990 as the day when the World Health Organization (WHO) declassified “homosexuality” as a mental illness (Wareham 2020). Since these types of beliefs existed so recently, there are countries that still consider their citizens being gay as an illegal act; 70 countries in the world continue to criminalize members of the LGBTQ community. There are 12 countries that will sentence their citizens to the death penalty for consensual same-sex sexual acts between adults, including Iran, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, and Sudan.

Hersh (2016) wrote that these reactions can be biological, but they are created by cultural forces. I remember when I was a child my mom said to me: “Smoking is a very bad habit and disgusting, you should not do this ever.” Every time I saw anyone smoking, I felt a bad sensation in my body, and my face shows that for me this is disgusting. This example sheds light on the fact that the way people deal with LGBTQ people depends on the way that they are taught by their parents and the society around them. There is a possibility to start to see the differences now, when we compare older to younger generations. We see how younger people have more open minds to talk about sexual orientation and gender. So, it is clear that this myth that homosexuality is unnatural is untrue.

The second myth that Hersh presents is that there is not much history about same-sex marriage, or open homosexuality, or transgender people. Thanks to this kind of thinking, we can see the number of incidents against LGBTQ people increase. “Over 150 transgender people alone were killed in Brazil as of September 2020. This is 70% higher than in 2019” (Francisco and Muggah 2020). At least 92% claimed that such violence increased following the election of president Bolsonaro (Francisco and Muggah 2020). In the United States, the FBI reports an increase in crimes based on sexual orientation. They “represent 16.7% of hate crimes, the third largest category after race and religion. The report also shows an uptick in gender identity-based hate crimes rising from 2.2% in 2018 to 2.7% in 2019” (Ronan 2020). So, we can understand the challenges that arise from hate crimes and learn how to openly talk about this theme, and how understanding anthropology can help society.

The worst myth of them all, Hersh explains, is when a person argues against the existence of LGBTQ people; it only shows total ignorance about LGBTQ history. “Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer folks and practices are not new. They exist everywhere around the world, and have existed throughout all recorded history. Same-sex relationships are referenced throughout ancient Greek texts and art as publicly acknowledged and openly practiced” (Hersh 2016). Although the concept of marriage has been defined as “a unity between a man and a woman,” other kinds of relations like polygamy and same-sex marriage have been documented around the globe by more than a century worth of anthropologists (Hersh 2016). The most used example of same-sex marriage is among American Indians:

Of the approximately 400 known American tribes existing at the time of European contact, more than 155 had a formal status for male-bodied tribal members who opted to live, dress, and work as women. About a third of these have been documented as also formally accepting female-bodied Two Spirits, who lived, dressed, and worked as men. Both groups were allowed to marry people of the opposite gender, regardless of their sex. In other words, someone who was an acting male could marry someone who was an acting female, regardless of genitalia. Herein lies one of the problems – while Western cultures conflate the social aspects of gender with the biological aspects of sex; most other places around the world see them as not always lining up. [Hersh 2016]

So, after learning this information, it is possible to understand the importance of talking about the theme of LGBTQ phobia. All of the incidents that happen with LGBTQ people have a connection with culture, religion, and politics. Countries that prohibit being a member of the LGBTQ community, or it is a crime, still live inside a deep culture and religion that go against some of the values of life LGBTQ community members choose to live by. But, this problem isn’t specific to these countries. In Brazil and in the United States, countries with more modernity and with a different culture, we have the same problem, but in different ways. Of course, these violent acts don’t have connection with the law, like the other countries, but continue to affect the lifestyles within the LGBTQ community.

The next myth is about perceptions of evolution. Many people believe that being LGBTQ is inconsistent with evolution, especially when talking about reproduction. We need to understand that evolution is not a simple process; it is not linear. Hersh wrote: “It’s a process fraught with trial and error. There are examples of sexual diversity throughout the animal kingdom, just like there are examples of biological diversity that make life hard for no reason” (Hersh 2016). Normally, people think that sexual orientation and gender is an option, but the same kind of activity is often found in the animal kingdom, so I would recommend that the LGBTQ phobics should take the time to study some of the cultural and biological history of the matter rather than using their lack of information to spread hate for everyone. Focusing on the importance of human reproduction and genetic survival takes away from how being LGBTQ has helped humans both progress culturally and biologically evolve in recent years. Selectively emphasizing certain scientific facts obscures the positive contributions to humanity when the LGBTQ community is accepted into society.

The next myth is that members of the LGBTQ community are different from people who are considered normal heterosexuals. More often than not, distinguishing between someone who is gay and who isn’t can be difficult, because each person can be different in terms of our biological sex, the way that we view ourself (male/female/ neither), who sexually attracts us, who we choose to marry or partner with, and our mannerisms. We are humans, and humans are more complex than we currently understand. “Anthropology and many other biological and social studies disciplines have demonstrated over and over that, while we tend to think in terms of binaries, we live in terms of spectrums” (Hersh 2016). We live in a very diverse world with many humans and animals, so creating a simple explanation about the sexuality of a human can create complex conversations and belief systems within the societies that members of the LGBTQ communities reside in.

Myth 5 is that people are gay or they are not. This myth tells more about those who believe it than about the nature of sexuality. Some people think that we have only two categories of people: male and female. But, many societies have more than one category of gender. So, it is not a fact that people need to divide everyone into the biological categories: male or female. We have other categories. It is estimated that 1 in 1000-2000 people are born interesex, “with genetic, hormonal, or physiological differences that make it challenging to casually categorize their biological sex” (Little Hersh 2016). These differences usually show only in puberty, when they start developing secondary sexual characteristics like: breasts or facial hair. Again, we see how complex sex is, so having an open mind allows us to understand the differences that exist in our world.  Anthony Bogaert and Malvina Skorka (2021) made an important short review of biological research on the development of sexual orientation. They found biological differences in the brain which show differences between straight and LGBTQ people. So, it can be proved by science that being LGBTQ is more than a choice: people are born this way.


Now, I want to share one case that came from using knowledge to promote positive change–a success story from Singapore. Singapore went from one of the nations that was least likely to accept gay and lesbian citizens, to a nation with positive cultural and sexual citinzeship that helps to create a better and safe place for members of the LGBTQ community. They created the Pink Dot that celebrates the love that transcends all, with the implicit goal of repealing an old law that criminalized sexuality and others acts of state-condoned discrimination, and relaxing other laws as well. This event became an example of how to deal with cultural and sexual citizenship, especially queer Singaporeans. This example demonstrates the importance of involving members of the LGBTQ community while dealing with this subject. There is the possibility to change our mentality with information, like the kind found in Singapore. These actions became an example and were studied using anthropology.

So, we started sharing information about the LGBTQ community to show the importance of talking about the theme: LGBT phobia. When I was 7 years old, 30 years ago, homosexuality was classified as a disease. Now, we celebrate a fact that World Health Organization (WHO) declassified homosexuality as mental disorder, but we have countries where being gay remains illegal, and countries where the death penalty for consesual same-sex sexual acts between adults is still active. We learned about countries, like Brazil and the United States, that had advances in LGBTQ rights, but the number of incidents against LGBTQ people is still high.

It is evident that LGBTQ phobia myths can be destroyed by Anthropology. We reviewed multiple myths that were proven otherwise with Anthropology by researchers like Carrie Little Hersh and Jamie Wareham, such as: it is unnatural to be homosexual and this is why people feel disgusted when they see homosexual situations; same-sex marriage/open homosexuality, transgender people have no history; evolutionary theory argues against the importance of LGBTQ people; LGBTQ community members are different from people who are considered normal heteressoxuals; that a person is gay or not; and that biology can simply define one’s sexual orientation and gender. Now, we know the truth about these myths. We can understand how knowledge is important, and anthropology can help us re-shape society's opinion about being LGBTQ phobic. I hope that soon we will have more success like in Singapore. We live in a diverse world and we should show respect to each other.


Bogaert, Anthony F., and Malvina N. Skorska. "A short review of biological research on the development of sexual orientation." Hormones and behavior 119 (2020): 104659. Accessed: 8 April 2021.

Francisco, Pedro Augusto P., and Muggah, Robert. “Brazil’s LGBTQ Community Faces Surging Violence, But They’re Fighting Back”. Open Democracy. December 9, 2020 https://www.opendemocracy.net/en/democraciaabierta/violencia-anti-lgbtq-brasil-en/ accessed: 8 April 2021

Hersh, Carie Little. “5 Homophobic Myths Destroyed by Anthropology”. July 15, 2016 Relevanth.com   https://www.relevanth.com/5-homophobic-myths-destroyed-by-anthropology/ accessed: 10 April 2021

Ronan, Wyatt. “New FBI Hate Crimes Report Shows Increases in Anti-LGBTQ Attacks”. Human Righs Council. November 17, 2020 https://www.hrc.org/press-releases/new-fbi-hate-crimes-report-shows-increases-in-anti-lgbtq-attacks accessed: 8 April 2021

Tan, Chris. “Pink Dot: Cultural and Sexual Citizenship in Gay Singapore.” Anthropological Quarterly, vol. 88, no. 4, 2015, pp. 969–996., www.jstor.org/stable/43955499. Accessed: 16 Mar. 2021.

Wareham, Jamie. “Map Shows Where It’s Illegal To Be Gay - 30 Years Since WHO Desclassified Homosexuality As Disease”. Forbes. May 17, 2020 https://www.forbes.com/sites/jamiewareham/2020/05/17/map-shows-where-its-illegal-to-be-gay--30-years-since-who-declassified-homosexuality-as-disease/?sh=7563e540578a accessed: 8 April 2021

About the author: 

My name is Henrique Machado, I'm from Brazil. I arrived in the United States in 2018. My husband and I received political asylum because, unfortunately, it isn't safe for LGBTQIA+ to live in Brazil now. I have a bachelor's degree in Social Communication from Brazil, but now I want to realize my dream to take my Dramatic Arts course in university. I chose this course because I’m very curious about this theme. My expectations are that this knowledge can help me in the future in my career in arts too.

“Cyborgs and Anthropology: How Tool Use Connects the Post-Human to our Ancestors” by Omar Mora


With our species now headed towards a new technological frontier it seems apt to examine how cyborgs and the biomechatronic affects our perception of evolution and what constitutes a human being at its core, and to examine whether this relatively new concept of biomechatronic augmentation runs counter to the paradigm of evolution that biological anthropology already studies or whether it is an entirely new phenomenon. To properly evaluate the question, three principal sources were examined, these are: Donna Haraway’s Cyborg Manifesto, Wolfgang Welsch’s article on posthumanism and evolutionary anthropology and Joshua Well’s article on Cyborgs and current Anthropology. While this matter can be approached from a cultural point of view, this literature review will mainly focus on the relationship between evolution and bioengineered posthumanism. Is it fundamentally different from the other parts of our evolution? Or does it represent a departure from our humanity or the Homo sapiens that we currently inhabit today?

Physical anthropology concerns a blend of social studies and biological studies looking at primates in order to understand how we scientifically came to be while also understanding our behavior in a deeper fashion. As this is a broad field, it has come to be divided into distinct subsets such as paleoanthropology, which specifically examines “the tree of life that leads to us” (Schoenberg, 2019: 6.1) through the examination of fossils and archeological records, which in turn shows the development that hominids have had over our existence. Physical anthropology also covers the relationship between man and animal and their biological difference. An additional aspect that is covered by physical anthropology is that of human variation, with people coming in different races and sexes, and now embracing the potential of biomechatronic and cybernetic implants or prosthetic apparatus.

To begin, it would be wise to examine how this topic is related to paleoanthropology, which in essence studies the split between apes and humans and examines how hominids evolved into the modern Homo sapiens. Through the examination of the history of hominids, one can examine the development of many facets of humanity that in the end give us an understanding of how we came to be. Some of these defining characteristics include culture, language, dentition and most importantly to this work, the usage of tools (Schoenberg, 2019: 6.1.1). According to Richard Byrne at the University of St Andrews in Scotland, “Tool use is an important aspect of being human that has assumed a central place in accounts of the evolutionary origins of human intelligence”, of course implying that the cognitive and biological developments that humans have had are interlinked with the development of more advanced tools (Byrne, 31: 2004). Tools that have now developed to the point of being attached to humans with developments such as cybernetic implants or prosthetic limbs.

While paleoanthropology usually stops at the Upper Paleolithic era, this is not where physical anthropology ends, also examining the many facets of human variation (Schoenberg, 2019:6.13.2). With the advent of many modern scientifical breakthroughs, humans have now unlocked a different kind of variation, something separate from race, gender, and sex. Humans have now started to experiment with the melding of the biological and the mechanical to create cyborgs, which leads to this examination. Cyborgs were originally described as a system with both organic and inorganic parts or people with machinated body parts. This means that people with systems like pacemakers, insulin pumps or prosthetic limbs are already cyborgs by this definition of the word.

Posthumanism as the next step in evolution

With humanity rapidly advancing technology to the point where the creation of human machine hybrids is possible, it is essential to think about the possibility that the next step for Homo sapiens is that of man and machine. According to Wolfgang Welsch, humans are “inherently worldly beings, deeply rooted in the process of evolution” (Welsch 2017:1) in a way reaffirming that this attachment to the earth and the natural cycle of evolution is something that tethers human beings to animals and the natural world. This goes hand in hand with posthumanism, which also rejects the notion of “human supremacy” (Welsch 2017:1). Through this shared framework one can more closely examine how enhancements are a natural process for humanity, even when it comes from outside the human itself.

Through an examination of history, it is possible to perceive patterns that lead up to humanity’s current mission for redefinition and self-change. 40,000 years ago, during the Upper Paleolithic period where human nature was defined as we know it today, advancements such as upright walking, the redefinition of sexual orientations, and a reduction in hairiness all occurred (Welsch 2017: 83). Humanity had a large influence in its own growth, and as Clifford Geertz put it, an organism that “quite literally created himself” (Welsch 2017: 83) . By the end of this period, humans at their core were “genetically fixed” and then transitioned to a new form of development, that of cultural evolution which in turn led to “cognition-based tradition-building instead of genetic transmission” (Welsch 2017: 83). It is important to then recognize that we are entering a new phase, “for the first time, mankind is able to improve itself not only by ameliorating its cultural software but by altering its genetic hardware” (Welsch 2017: 83). When one examines humanity’s history, however, such paradigm shifts seem relatively natural, and one can see how humans can transcend borders previously thought uncrossable.

Our History with Cyborgs: Tools Use and Evolutionary Forces

By understanding the systems of tool use and feedback that “inform people and guide their existence” one can grow to understand the “complex relationship between human beings and their technologies” which is essential to understand how cyborgs are in a way a natural step in the development of mankind and intrinsically linked to biological anthropology (Wells 2014: 10). Christopher Stringer, who was a “key force in the development of the recent African origin hypothesis” has frequently argued that the technological change was instrumental to our evolution, asserting that the African modern Homo sapiens had “fully developed symbolically artistic and mundane technological dependencies” (cited in Wells, 2014: 12), which in turn implies that humans at this point were already starting to use technology in a cyborgic capacity as a core tenet of their survival. Stringer throughout his writing in Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth establishes a “theme of cyborgic change within the discipline of paleoanthropology” that has an origin in the “intimate integration of computing with the organic messiness of human life” (Wells, 2014: 14) and the manner in which “computing power and availability began to influence the biological sciences” (Wells, 2014: 14). When it is asserted that “unaugmented human organisms require tool use for survival in all terrestrial environments” (Wells, 9), one must wonder the difference between the tools that we as humans use daily to endure our environment to those that are merely permanently attached to us.

Humans as Cyborgs, Are We Actually Already There?

Some authors such as Donna Haraway, a distinguished academic in the University of California Santa Cruz, argue that through the development of humanity we have already become cyborgs through our intermingling with different aspects of cybernetics. While the concept of the fantasy cyborg that one could study in a cultural anthropology still seems far away, Haraway argues that “Biology and evolutionary theory over the last two centuries have (…) reduced the line between humans and animals to a faint trace” (Haraway, 2015:152) which in turn serves to converge cyborgs towards the boundary between human and animal. After this, Haraway has this to say about how the relationship between organisms and machines has been blurred, “Communications science and biology are constructions of natural-technical objects of knowledge in which the difference between machine and organism is thoroughly blurred; mind, body, and tool are on very intimate terms” (Haraway, 2015). This relates to the concepts of ages such as the lower paleolithic to the upper paleolithic and how these are distinguished by the way humans utilize the tools at their disposal to mark different steps in them.

An aspect that few seem to consider when evaluating the cyborg question is the attachment that we as modern humans already have to technology. During these unprecedented times even our education has been tied to technology and machinery, where it was once dependent on mere writing and spoken word, now we all consume knowledge through the lens of machinery and our phones. Our workplaces are tied to machines and we socialize using the internet communities. The controversial business magnate, Elon Musk asserts this idea, arguing that “We’re already a cyborg (…) you have a digital version of yourself in the form of emails, social media and the things that you do” also arguing that we have “super powers” that are associated with cyborgs in science fiction literature, “You can answer any question, you can video conference with anyone, you can send messages to millions of people instantly” (Ricker, 2016). This raises a fascinating point, inspecting the ties that we have with our smartphones and the superhuman abilities that one could argue that they give us. This bond that we have to our phone might transcend into an emotional bond as well, with people being unable to be without their devices for extended periods of time.

Psychologists and prominent thinkers have been examining human attachment to technology for decades now and it is easy to argue that its influence on the human experience is at its strongest that it has been due to the rise of the digital world, smartphones and computers. Even back in 1998, David Mick and Susan Fournier at the University of Chicago were able to acknowledge the importance of technology to human life, and how interlinked our development is to it. They argued that:

Technology is a power in its own right, fundamental to the historical trajectory of Western civilization. Without it, ‘‘contemporary culture—work, art, science, and education, indeed the entire range of interactions—is unthinkable. Hence, technology has become not only necessary but also inconspicuous if not invisible” [Mick, 1998:10]

Our daily and inescapable use of technology has blinded our perception of it, which is what makes the prospect of us being cyborgs somewhat frightening or foreign, when in actuality we already inhabit the space that cyborgs once used to take.

This ignorance is somewhat paradoxical considering the modern attachments to technology, which some research has found to be even emotional at times. A study done by Gisli Thorsteinsson and Tom Page at the University of Iceland analyzing attachment to smartphones found that “the majority of smartphone users developed an emotional attachment to their smartphone on one level or another” (Thorsteinsson 2014). Through the study of emotions and psychology, it was found that the attachments they formed with this piece of technology encouraged people to keep their phones close to themselves, and that customizing the phones also served to make the device personal to them. This in turn “makes the product unique to the user and allows them to make their phone an extension of themselves” (Thorsteinsson 2014), which in essence proves that people do consider items as frigid as a portable cellphones and computers that are mostly made of silicon and wiring as a part of their own being. Unconsciously, we have embraced technology as a part of ourselves, we cannot be separated from it and in a sense, we are one with it as both the masters and slaves of it.


Throughout this examination of paleoanthropology, evolution and the relationship that humans share with technology, one can start to see why prominent anthropological and philosophical authors such as Haraway, Welsch and Wells have asserted that our relationship to our technology is more complicated than we might be led to believe at first. Our evolutionary history in many ways has led us to this point, where one must abandon notions of human supremacy and accept the melding of the human with other earthly entities. In many ways humanity created itself through self-redefinition and not solely through our genes mutating to create different forms.

Another component that is essential to re-discuss is our history with tool use, where through these systems we can learn how there has always been an integration of technological constructs with the biological aspect of human life. Through the examination of Wells’ writings, it is possible to glean that we are already dependent on tool use for survival, as if left without tools in the wilderness your average human would most certainly perish, a trait that is unique to humans as far as fauna goes.

From my standpoint, I agree with the conclusion that these philosophers and anthropologists reached where the relationship between man and technology has now grown to be so strong and essential to the point where we can barely survive without it or even feel like it is an intimate part of our lives. While I am not comfortable with what I perceive to be a dangerous dependency on items such as our smartphones that are owned by corporate entities and the creation of our digital selves that we are expected to have to thrive in modern society, I understand that this is merely a stage in human development and that hopefully this generation or future generations can create a way to balance this dependency on technology or embrace it in a healthier manner.

Throughout this paper these points all lead to an inevitable conclusion, where we are already cyborgs, with thinkers such as Donna Haraway deconstructing what it means to be a human, animal, or cybernetic entity to examine exactly how our growth depends on ourselves as much as it does on genes or the classical definition of evolution. As our relationship with technology grows stronger by the day, and some even find themselves emotionally attached to their electronic devices, it is essential to continue analyzing what this means for humanity and how this relationship we have with technology could continue to impact the future of our species while also recognizing the way in which it has been affecting us since we started depending on tools for our survival.


Byrne, Richard W. 2004. “The Manual Skills and Cognition That Lie behind Hominid Tool Use.” Chapter. In The Evolution of Thought: Evolutionary Origins of Great Ape Intelligence, edited by Anne E. Russon and David R. Begun, 31–44. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. doi:10.1017/CBO9780511542299.005.

Haraway, Donna Jeanne. 2015. “A Cyborg Manifesto” in Simians, Cyborgs, and Women: the Reinvention of Nature

Mick, David Glen, and Susan Fournier. "Paradoxes of Technology: Consumer Cognizance, Emotions, and Coping Strategies." Journal of Consumer Research 25, no. 2 (1998): 123-43. Accessed April 30, 2021. doi:10.1086/209531.

Ricker, Thomas. “Elon Musk: We’re Already Cyborgs.” The Verge, June 2, 2016., Accessed April 23rd 2021. https://www.theverge.com/2016/6/2/11837854/neural-lace-cyborgs-elon-musk.

Thorsteinsson, G. and T. Page. “User attachment to smartphones and design guidelines.” Int. J. Mob. Learn. Organization 8 (2014): 201-215.

Wells, Joshua (2014) Keep Calm and Remain Human: How We Have Always Been Cyborgs and Theories on the Technological Present of Anthropology, Reviews in Anthropology, 43:1, 5-34, DOI: 10.1080/00938157.2014.872460

Welsch, Wolfgang. "Postmodernism—Posthumanism—Evolutionary Anthropology." Journal of Posthuman Studies 1, no. 1 (2017): 75-86. Accessed April 4, 2021. doi:10.5325/jpoststud.1.1.0075.

About the author:

My name is Omar Mora and I’m studying economics. While the science of anthropology is separate from the world of finance and business I believe it to be invaluable when considering branches such as Behavioral Economics. I also think that it serves to better understand how one’s decisions affect other people and to gain a deeper knowledge of how humanity arrived where we currently are. With my degree in Economics, I hope to help research class inequality and wealth redistribution to help those without social safety nets.

“Do Other Great Apes Communicate Like Humans?” by Kevin Townsend 

On this planet, many different species of life evolve and change over time. A prime example of this is primates such as chimpanzees, monkeys, gorillas, and humans. Over time primates have evolved, changing their physical features and their brain shape and size. These various developments allow for different things, such as new ways to communicate or different uses of tools. Humans share a common ancestor with other primates and similar DNA. Therefore, one might find many similarities between chimpanzees, gorillas, and humans. While humans are more intelligent and have the most complex brain, all primates share the same origin. If humans and other great apes share a common ancestor, then it would make sense that non-human great apes communicate with each other as humans do.

This hypothesis correlates with anthropology, which is the study of human history through linguistics, culture, biology, and archaeology. The main focus of biological anthropology is discovering how the human species arrived to where it is now and finding every step it took. One subfield of anthropology is that of primatology, which involves comparing and contrasting primates to both other mammals, other primates, and humans (Schoenberg 2021). Primatology is also useful for various discoveries of human ancestry since humans are also primates. The following will use primatology to compare the communication abilities of humans and other primates.

Originally the research plan was to go to the local zoo and observe the primates there and test the hypothesis. However, the global pandemic from COVID-19 made this difficult. So I found alternative methods to gather data. This includes articles that focus on vocalizations in chimpanzees and gorillas, and documentaries like People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe and Disneynature: Chimpanzee. In addition to this research, I surveyed primate videos of chimpanzees in captivity from the ChimpanZoo database. While these methods aren’t as accurate as observation of primates in real-time or in the wild, they are sufficient enough to test the hypothesis. Each source of information provided another point of view that focuses on primate behavior and draws similarities between them and humans. It was my objective to pinpoint the similarities of vocalization between humans and the other primates, so every source presents something new on primate communication.

Speech is a key tool for humans to get around in this world. It’s useful for transferring information, expressing emotions, and leading others. It’s only natural that chimpanzees and gorillas do the same thing. While these primates don’t make the same sounds as humans they may be sending one another messages. Chimpanzees make various sounds such as soft and loud “hoos”, high pitched screeches, and howls. In the article “Primate Vocalizations Are Much More Than Just Gibberish” written by Jay Schwartz, readers will find that chimpanzees communicate with one another to transfer information about potential dangers. Scientists tested this by placing a fake snake in the chimp community and observing how they react to it. It was revealed that the first chimp that saw the snake would let out a “hoo” sound warning others. Then when other chimps came across the snake they would be prepared, unless they didn’t hear the “hoo” from the first chimp so they would make the same sound to warn others. This is similar to how humans interact. If one human sees something that poses a threat they are most likely going to warn those in the general vicinity. Additionally “the chimps made more calls to listeners with whom they shared a strong social bond; they seem to have been more motivated to ensure that their close friends or relatives were aware of the threat” (Schwartz 2017). Therefore, not only are chimps similar to humans in communicating with others but the way they interact in their social relationships is also similar because humans are also motivated to protect their friends and family.

To follow up on the topic of speech, non-human apes use their vocalizations to express their feelings. This is something very common for humans. Practices such as venting, or yelling in anger are prime examples of humans expressing their emotions through speech. In the article “Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals” written by Brian Owens, it’s evident that gorillas may do the same thing as humans. As the gorillas eat they make repeated sounds that sound like a little song. In their natural habitat, it is mainly the dominant male gorilla that is making sounds. Scientists believe that this could be him expressing his emotions towards the meal but also could be commanding the others that it is meal time. The most logical answer would be that he is commanding the others given that he is the only one making sounds. Yet, gorillas in captivity all sing songs as they eat, Owens writes “And if it’s their favorite food, they sing louder” (Owens 2016). This was seen at the Toronto Zoo and the zookeeper noted how each gorilla has their distinctive tone giving each of them personality (Owens 2016). This further supports the similarities between humans and primates, because when people eat good food they will often exclaim how good it is and they express feelings of happiness. But it’s important to note that primates in captivity are very different from primates in the wild. The gorillas at the zoo have people around them at all times and they could be altering their true nature. This is why further research of wild primates is necessary to show the similarities between primates and humans.

In the wild, chimpanzees are far more active and vocal than in captivity. This is true because when comparing documentaries such as People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe to primate cams of chimps in captivity, the ones in the movie are doing much more. However, since movies are meant to entertain they will mainly show when the chimps are doing things rather than when they are just sitting around. Also, the audience may be confused about the reason why chimps do things because there is narration and music to change how the audience feels about the footage. Nonetheless, it is still footage of chimpanzees in the wild and it is accurate about what they do. The chimps in the movie were very vocal in multiple situations. Whenever they were playing, feeding, grooming, or fighting vocalizations were present. The adult chimps did not make too much noise but the kids constantly made noise and were frequently moving around. This is similar to humans: in childhood, kids have more energy and are more active, but as they grow older they become more calm and mature. Additionally, the males use their voices to achieve their rank in the hierarchy. The loudest and most intimidating will be labeled the alpha male and all the other chimps in the society will acknowledge this. Some may think that these chimpanzees are just making noises and there's no connection to communication, but when the chimps return from a journey they reunite with their friends and family. They will hug and kiss each other while uttering soft noises to assure that everything is okay. However, in the ChimpanZoo database primate cams the chimps are not vocalizing much and they’re just sitting around either self-grooming or grooming one another. Yet these chimps are in captivity so there is not much to do. From time to time they will use or hold some objects given to them like a box or a kite. It is important to remember that the chimps in the wild live in a community of around 35 to 50 chimpanzees, but the ones in captivity are only with a couple of other chimps. On top of this, the footage taken for the chimpanzees in the wild is stretched over many years, whereas for the primate cams it is only 12 minutes give or take.

When testing the hypothesis, if humans and other great apes share a common ancestor, then it would make sense that non-human great apes communicate with each other as humans do, the facts of the situation should be considered. For example, “the brains of apes are relatively small compared to humans, so they can never match the complexity of human language, and most scientists reserve the word "language" for how humans communicate” (Schoenberg 2021). Humans have a much higher neuron count than gorillas and chimpanzees, therefore they can process things at a greater value. It only makes sense that humans have a well-developed language and other apes do not. This means that while there may be slight similarities between how humans communicate and how apes communicate, they will never be the same. However, it’s important not to underestimate the capabilities of what these other primates can learn. Take the female gorilla Koko for example. Koko was a gorilla in captivity who was taught sign language by psychologist Penny Patterson, who spent years with Koko (National Geographic 2018). She was able to teach Koko along with another captive male gorilla Michael hundreds of American Sign Language signs. This showed the gorillas' capabilities to understand the complexity of a language and use it at their free will. Additionally, the gorillas were able to understand hundreds of spoken words, since Penny would speak as she signed. As far as vocalizations go, apes are not capable of producing the same amount and variation of sounds as humans because their larynx is different (Schoenberg 2021). Meaning that human language is going to be more advanced because they have a larger set of sounds and words to work with. Apes only make certain noises, as a result, this is why all ape “language” sounds the same to humans. When watching documentaries and primate cams one will hear a lot of high-pitched screeches, soft or deep hoots, and howls.

Overall, the hypothesis that, if humans and other great apes share a common ancestor, then it would make sense that non-human great apes communicate with each other as humans do, was proven wrong. While apes do communicate with one another to express their feelings, transmit information, and establish leadership. It is nowhere near the same level as human communication. As previously mentioned gorillas and chimpanzees' brains are smaller and don’t have the same components for advanced thinking as human brains. Additionally, sometimes the apes may just be making noise and not communicating at all, such as when they’re off by themselves. Humans are always talking but in the chimpanzee communities, it was evident that for the most part the adult apes hardly make noise besides the males in power struggles. While the hypothesis was proven wrong the research conducted could still lead to discoveries on the origin of language and the common ancestors for humans and other great apes.


Fothergill, Alastair, director. 2012. Disneynature Chimpanzee. Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures.

Geographic, National. “Watch Koko the Gorilla Use Sign Language in This 1981 Film | National Geographic.” National Geographic, June 22, 2018. Youtube video, 7:35. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FqJf1mB5PjQ.

Lawick, Hugo, director. 1988. People of the Forest: The Chimps of Gombe. Discovery Channel.

Owens, Brian. 2016. “Wild gorillas compose happy songs that they hum during meals.” NewScientist.com, February 24. Accessed March 17, 2021. https://www.newscientist.com/article/2078781-wild-gorillas-compose-happy-songs-that-they-hum-during-meals/.

Schoenberg, Arnie. 2021. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. https://arnieschoenberg.com/anth/bio/intro/index.html

Schwartz, Jay. 2017. “Primate Vocalizations Are Much More Than Gibberish”. Sapiens.org, August 25. Accessed April 1, 2021. https://www.sapiens.org/language/primate-vocalizations/.

The Jane Goodall Institute. “Welcome to ChimpanZoo.” Accessed March 31, 2021. www.chimpanzoo.org/.

About the author

Hi, my name is Kevin Townsend and this is my second semester at San Diego City College. I have lived in San Diego my whole life and graduated from San Diego High School last year in the class of 2020. I am majoring in computer science and so far I've taken one coding class which was fairly difficult, but the more I practice it the easier it gets. I have also been taking general ed classes to fulfill my ed plan requirements, so I have been learning about multiple subjects. I plan on finishing my associate's degree here at City College then transferring to a 4-year university to complete my bachelor's degree.

For my career, I want to do something in the technology field such as game development, or software development. I want to work with technology because it's something that will be present in the future and the demand for employees in that field will remain high. I am not sure however whether or not I will have a passion for my future career but I am willing to give it a try. All my previous work experience is not related to what I want to do, but I have enjoyed playing video games since I was little so that is why I am interested in game development.

“Biological Warfare in Palestine” by Kai Baskett 


      Just as of recently, Americans sat idly by and watched live footage of bombings launched by Israel on Gaza; scrolling through their Instagram timeline to see images being shared of ruins, devasted Palestinian families, and a raging fire in the Gaza strip. This is not a new thing. The Israeli-Palestine conflict has been going on for years, however for whatever reason in the past month it’s been talked about more than ever raising multiple questions for the average American: How long have Israeli forces been bombing Palestinians? What other things are happening to Palestinians in the Gaza strip, Syrian Golan Heights, and West bank that aren’t being caught on camera? With all the information that’s been surfacing and that we’ve gathered, how are Palestinians fairing under COVID-19? To answer these questions in an anthropological approach, these main sources will be used: Stefan Riedal’s 2004 “Biological warfare and bioterrorism: a historical review”, Julie Peteet’s 2016 “The work of comparison: Israel/Palestine and aparthied”, Oliver Holme’s “Israel blocked COVID vaccines from entering Gaza Palestinians say.” This review will help us to view Israel’s modern colonial evolution and the direct effect it has on the Palestinians still residing in what is now known as ‘Israel.’

         To understand the nature of Israel, we have Cultural anthropology to help us understand not only the history of the land, but behavior, ethnography, and most importantly the people. Cultural anthropology is one of the four main subfields of Anthropology that focuses on examining the history and human development.  Cultural anthropology is the study of contemporary human cultures and how these cultures are formed and shape the world around them (O’ Neil, 2008). Culture is part of biology. Our behaviors are determined by a tangle of connections that enmesh culturally acquired information with other biological aspects. We have evolved in the environment of culture (Richerson and Boyd 2005: 4). With culture usually comes social stratification or it has as of recent times. This is particularly noted in a place like Israel. First, Israel is an ethnically stratified society. Approximately 83 per cent of its population is Jewish and the remainder is Arab. The two communities are separated by language, place of residence, lifestyle, religion and economy, and class position (Lewin-Epstein and Semyonov, 1993). The clear division between classes is prominent and contains a long bloody history of illegitimate statehood and Palestinian displacement. The roots of the Israel-Palestine conflict go as back as far as the 19th century where there was a rise of in nationalism, particularly the Zionist movement. The Zionist movement called for the establishment of a nation state for the Jewish people in Palestine. They increasingly came to hold that this state should be in their historic homeland, which they referred to as the Land of Israel (Wikipedia). Their unwanted migration was only the start of a 50 year war. Before ‘Israel’, Palestine was under Ottoman control and then under British mandate. It wasn’t until the growing influx in the Jewish population of Palestine where tensions became high and conflict broke out. It was only worsened when the General Assembly created a resolution for the two.

The Plan (PART I A., Clause 3.) provided that "Independent Arab and Jewish States and the Special International Regime for the City of Jerusalem, should come into existence in Palestine two months after the evacuation of the armed forces of the mandatory Power has been completed but in any case not later than October 1, 1948” (Wikipedia). Shortly after war broke out and in 1948 the state of Israel was established. Israel was able to occupy more land over time and whatever was known as Palestinian territory began to dwindle.

Given Israel’s origin, the tools of cultural anthropology allows us to understand Israel’s inherently violent history that will later explain its use of biological warfare used on Palestinians. Organized violence has always been a prevalent part of human culture throughout history, violence stems from behavior and beliefs: “The spectacular violence of war, genocide, and massacre; the structural violence of unequal social and economic relationships—the violence of racism, sexism, and class inequality; and interpersonal violence—all forms that are understood to be intertwined, interconnected phenomena”  (Waterson, 2013: 1). The political tension that resides in Israel came to fruition the day Israelis had their own Manifest Destiny. Many Jewish people moved from Europe to Palestine to escape the rise in antisemitism, but also because they believed they needed to return to a homeland for Jewish people. Zionism led to the creation of the motto, “A Land without a people for a People without a Land.” However, Palestine was already inhabited by the Arab population. The idea of Zionism and Jewish nationalism is what led to what we’re witnessing today. The class divisions and clear inequalities between Israelis and Palestinians fuel the violence that goes on and showcase themselves in different issues from airstrikes to bombs to discrimnation in health care.

Palestinian officials have accused Israel of preventing a vital first shipment of 2,000 coronavirus vaccines intended for frontline health workers from entering the blockaded Gaza Strip (Holmes 2021). Such an act can be considered biological warfare. Biological warfare is where toxins or infectious diseases are weaponized. By preventing COVID-19 vaccines from entering the Gaza strip to frontline workers and making the vaccine completely inaccessible to citizens in Gaza and the West Bank, Israeli forces are subsequently allowing this virus to fester and accumulate within those vulnerable areas. Israel contracted to purchase ten million vaccine units, but were looking into the possibility of diverting the vaccines to other countries, and throwing them away (Berman 2021). Allowing for all of the Israelis to get vaccinated and weaponizing the virus against Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza will allow the virus to persist in those areas. Not only this, but it’s worthy to note that while there are over three and a half million Palestinians living in both of those areas, the Palestinian refugees who aren’t granted citizenship are not being accounted for resulting in even more deaths that there’s no way we’ll be aware of. The process of allowing a virus to continue in order to eventually kill off a certain group is certainly not new.

In the 18th century, contaminated blankets used by smallpox patients were distributed among Native American Indians by the British with the intent of initiating outbreaks killing more than 50% of affected tribes.

This particular case is similar to what the British did to the Eora people, Aztecs, Incas, and many other groups. Anthropology helps to trace back how so many Indigenous groups were just killed off and what killed them. Our understanding of diseases expands because of Paleopathology and being given this knowledge is both good and bad. We are informed about those diseases and in time created vaccinations to prevent them, but those incidents have also influenced a whole new age of modern day biological warfare as seen in Israel.

Of all the research provided, the atrocities that we’re seeing today ultimately tie back to Anthropology: colonialism’s role in how Israel was formed, the culture they created and the one they destroyed, the political tension between the two groups of people, and social stratification.


Berman, Lazar. “Israel may toss millions of vaccines. Why won’t it give them to the PA instead?” The Times of Israel. 5 May 2021. https://www.timesofisrael.com/israel-may-toss-millions-of-vaccines-why-wont-it-give-them-to-the-pa-instead/

Lewin-Epstein, Noah, and Moshe Semyonov. 1993. The Arab Minority in Israel’s Economy: Patterns of Ethnic Inequality. Westview Press.

Peteet, Julie. "The work of comparison: Israel/Palestine and apartheid." Anthropological Quarterly (2016): 247-281.

Richerson, Peter J., and Robert Boyd. “Culture Is Essential.” In Not by genes alone: How culture transformed human evolution. University of Chicago press, 2008. Press.uchicago.edu, press.uchicago.edu/Misc/Chicago/712842.html. Accessed 22 July 2022.

Holmes, Oliver. “Israel Blocked Covid Vaccines from Entering Gaza, Say Palestinians.” The Guardian, 16 Feb. 2021, www.theguardian.com/world/2021/feb/16/israel-blocked-covid-vaccines-from-entering-gaza-say-palestinians.

O’Neil, Dennis. Cultural Anthropology Tutorials https://www2.palomar.edu/anthro/tutorials/cultural.htm

‌Rabinowitz, Dan. “The Palestinian Citizens of Israel, the Concept of Trapped Minority and the Discourse of Transnationalism in Anthropology.” Ethnic and Racial Studies, vol. 24, no. 1, Jan. 2001, pp. 64–85, 10.1080/014198701750052505. Accessed 3 June 2019.

Riedel, Stefan. "Biological warfare and bioterrorism: a historical review." In Baylor University Medical Center Proceedings, vol. 17, no. 4, pp. 400-406. Taylor & Francis, 2004.

OSHA. “Smallpox - Smallpox as a Bioweapon” Occupational Safety and Health Administration. www.osha.gov/smallpox/bioweapon#:~:text=In%20the%20first%20documented%20case.

Waterston‌, Alisse. 2013 “The Editor’s Note: On Violence” Open Anthropology. Volume 1 , Number 2, October 2013. www.americananthro.org/StayInformed/OAArticleDetail.aspx?ItemNumber=2486.

Wikipedia contributors, "United Nations Partition Plan for Palestine," Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=United_Nations_Partition_Plan_for_Palestine&oldid=1100972859.

About the author: 

My name is Kai Baskett. I’ve lived in San Diego all my life and I’m in my Freshman year at San Diego City college. I plan on majoring in Astrophysics and minoring in Mortuary science, however I’ve taken more classes related to Astrophysics. I want to transfer to a 4  year program after my Sophomore year, specifically SDSU or USF. This class was not necessary to my major, but I don’t regret taking it. It felt more like one of my funner classes this semester.

“Separation of ‘Human’ from ‘Ape’”  by Tugrul Efe Basaran  

The very idea that one animal can transform into a completely different living being is astonishing to imagine. Millions of years of biological evolution leading to such a transformation is the easy explanation that is almost universally accepted, at least in the Western world. Yet, this simple explanation is not very simple. The metaphysical thought experiment of The Ship of Theseus comes to mind. One by one, little by little, the genetic makeup of the ape changes and evolves into the modern human. So is that new person, or human, still the same being as the ape, or is it completely different? While that is a question to ponder, another conundrum rises. When is it that the “ape” became the “human”? At what point of the biological evolution did the human split from the ape to complete the evolution of modern mankind?

To tackle such a question, it is first wise to understand the complex nature of evolution, and the taxonomy of all families of primates involved in the process. The nature of evolution does not allow for there to be a precise stepping stone between man and ape, not a specific date or a specific direct descendant allowed for us humans to evolve. To better tackle this question, we analyze evolution by making a taxonomy of living organisms and trace their ancestors and provide the dates when the groups of species split apart from one another. It is the subfield of biological anthropology that is best able to analyze this question, since it studies the biology and behavior of humans, and other primates. Since we are looking to answer the physical split between humans and our ancestors, it is obvious to tackle this through the biological differences that explain when it could have taken place. The division within biological anthropology that specifically analyzes the origins of the human from the other primates and evolution itself is called paleoanthropology. In the 19th century, scientific discoveries of “cave-men” and the works of people like Darwin began solidifying the theory of human/primate relations and that our evolution shared the same roots. This can be pinpointed as the birth of paleoanthropology, and to this day, the field examines everything from fossils to the remnants of tools to explain human evolution and division from primates.

Over time, we found fossils that showed the primate tree has more branches and is deeper than we think. These discoveries even doubled in the last 50 years:

We have found hundreds of thousands of hominin fossils which represent tens of thousands of individuals.  When someone claims that there is no "missing link" between apes and humans they are ignoring that huge body of evidence gathered by thousands of scientists. The real debates are about how to include those ten thousand individuals in our family tree, because these thousands of fossils are just a tiny fraction of the billions of hominin ancestors that have lived rich and important lives, but left no physical traces. [Schoenberg 2021, 5.1]

This becomes evident when one realizes the magnitude of research that differentiates the human branch and the ape branch, and when they became distinct families. In the late 19th century, T.H. Huxley concluded that gorillas and chimpanzees were far more related than either was to us, we had evolved longer and attained distinct features such as our posture and brains:

Huxley’s work made it starkly clear that humans were a Great Ape, closer to our African kin than our East Asian ape cousins, the orangutan. It was unclear, however, which of the hundreds of extinct ape species found during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Africa, Europe and Asia, dating from the period 10 million to 35 million years old, gave rise to the human lineage. [Curnoe 2016]

Thus, to approach this question more comprehensively, it is wise to separate the human split into three categories. First, the human separation will be analyzed through the hominins before the australopithecines; the Ardipethecus family, the first group of bipeds that can be seen as the earliest human descendants. Then, the Homo sapiens will be analyzed through its first member, the Homo habilis. The Homo group is as close to universally accepted as scientists can get to the human family, so this is also valuable to see the separation of humans from apes, even if it is with other branches of the human tree. Homo sapiens, the modern human, is the final point to analyze to see the split of modern humans, once again, even if it is not from apes but the other members of our evolution.

When our ancestors adapted to bipedalism, it became a huge evolutionary turning point for the human race. As perhaps the most influential physical distinction we have, this point in the family tree’s separation becomes an important point for human separation from the apes. The Ardipethecus family is our closest link to other primates, and represents an interesting bridge between the species around 6-7 million years ago. In fact, the behavior analysis of the Ardipithecus shows similarities to chimpanzees, which is believed to be the closest thing to humans. To answer the question of when humans split from apes, Ardi, a fossil found in Ethiopia as the  “Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor” (Shreeve 2009) sheds a lot of light. This discovery was one of the biggest finds of the century as it gave true clues to the answer of the question. An Ardipithecus ramidus, Ardi not only shows bipedalism, however the pelvis and toes also show tree climbing attributes, which really magnify this fossil as the bridge between humans and primates, and perhaps the point where we separated. “Ardi instead shows an unexpected mix of advanced characteristics and of primitive traits seen in much older apes that were unlike chimps or gorillas. As such, the skeleton offers a window on what the last common ancestor of humans and living apes might have been like'' (Shreeve 2009). According to many scientists these species are “in the human branch on the grounds that they were too old and their similarities to humans explainable in ways other than shared ancestry” (Curnoe 2016). However, it is not agreed upon that Ardi lived about 4.4 million years ago, and there have been other fossils discovered in Chad from the same genus Ardipithecus, Ardipithecus kadabba to be precise, dating back around 6-7 million years (Choi 2016). This contradicts the general knowledge of scientists until recently that accepted the human-chimp split as around 5 million years ago and the human chimp split as around 7-8 million years ago. In 2007, an ancestor of the gorilla lineage was found with the bones of Chororapithecus abyssinicus. By finding the age of this species, which was around 8 million years ago, scientists were able to trace the divergence of the human and gorilla species. In conclusion, these two findings “shows that the human-gorilla split could have happened at around 10 million years ago and the human-chimp split at around 8 million years ago” (Choi 2016). Even though this seems like a concluding point to the question of when humans and their ancestors split, there isn’t universal consensus that these species belonged to the human side of the tree at all.   

Homo habilis is the first set of fossils to be so similar to us that they were assigned our same genus: Homo. The habilis species was named for the dexterity and ability required to make stone tools. Their brains were about a third bigger than australopiths (Schoenberg 2021, 6.5.1). Homo habilis can be pinpointed in history not only through the fossil record, but also by analyzing bones of animals that have been hunted and contain marks and scratches from tools from around 2.6 million years ago. These important findings allow scientists to associate “butchery of large animals, direct evidence of  meat and marrow eating, with the earliest appearance of the genus Homo, including  H. habilis”(Smithsonian 2020). Therefore, it would be a valid argument that we humans, as Homo, separated and became our species around 2.4-2.6 million years ago.

At this point, after analyzing the different stages of our separation from apes, it is valuable to go over the basics of the evolutionary process. Our evolution began with primates, which evolved into many different species. Skipping over many species and subspecies, monkeys evolve, and then apes are born. It is believed that humans, just like chimps, evolved (the first step kind of) from the common great apes (a.k.a. hominoids). The formation of the humans and chimpanzees from the great apes is the process of speciation, and this step is illustrated via the fossil findings from 6+ million years ago, which is analyzed as the first point of human separation. To visualize, this is the step where we become bipedal. At this point, the Homo species is born. However, even with the birth of the Homo, our evolutionary line is not clear. Chronospecies, such as the Homo erectus, also complicate the analysis of scientists, as there is no consensus on who and where to draw the lines for human definition. 

Initially, the Homo sapiens was thought to have emerged around 150-200 million years ago, so it is incredible that just a few years ago the very birth of our species was rediscovered. This highlights the ever-so-changing nature of anthropology. Our most certain truths may be proven wrong overnight, and questions that initially come across as very easy, such as ‘when did humans split from apes’?, can prove to be very complex. Through advancing scientific methods, a study (Saey 2014) was done on genetic mutation rates of chimpanzees. This study, when compared to the rate of humans, shows that humans and chimpanzees shared their earliest common ancestor around 13 million years ago (!). Geneticist Gil McVean of the University of Oxford who led the study says that "it's a number that people will be shocked, surprised, and upset by". As if this had not given rise to more questions than answers, a point from Darren Curnoe concludes where we stand: “we’re a long way from having a clear sense of when and how gorillas, chimpanzees and humans split from each other, and the emergence of the human lineage itself” (Saey 2014).

About the Author

My name is Efe Basaran. I was born in Connecticut and lived in a few other places across the world. I moved to San Diego a little bit over a year ago in the beginning of my senior year of high school. This is my second semester studying at Miramar College and I have still not decided on my major yet. I was interested in taking this class because anthropology was something I wanted to learn more about even though I do not plan on pursuing a career. I’m looking forward to learning new things!


Callaway, Ewen. “Oldest Homo sapiens fossil claim rewrites our species' history”. International Weekly Journal of Science, Nature. 07 June 2017. https://www.nature.com/news/oldest-homo-sapiens-fossil-claim-rewrites-our-species-history-1.22114

Choi, Charles Q. “Fossils Shed New Light on Human–Gorilla Split.” Scientific American. 12 Feb. 2016. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fossils-shed-new-light-on-human-gorilla-split/

Curnoe, Darren. “When Humans Split from the Apes.” UNSW Newsroom, The University of New South Wales, 23 Feb. 2016, newsroom.unsw.edu.au/news/science-tech/when-humans-split-apes#:~:text=In%202000%2C%20along%20came%20Orrorin,5-6%20million%20years%20ago.

Gibbons, Ann. “World's Oldest Homo sapiens Fossils Found in Morocco.” Science, 18 Oct. 2018, www.sciencemag.org/news/2017/06/world-s-oldest-homo-sapiens-fossils-found-morocco.

Saey, Tina Hesman. “Human-Ape Split Gets an Earlier Date.” Science News, vol. 186, no. 1, 2014, pp. 12–12. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24366238. Accessed 16 Apr. 2021

Schoenberg , Arnie. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. Sections 5 & 6.  16 Aug. 2020, arnieschoenberg.com/anth/bio/intro/index.html

Shreeve, Jamie. “Oldest Skeleton of Human Ancestor Found” National Geographic. 30 September, 2009. https://www.nationalgeographic.com/science/article/oldest-skeleton-human-ancestor-found-ardipithecus

The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program. 2020. “Human Family Tree”. The Smithsonian Institution's Human Origins Program, Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History , humanorigins.si.edu/evidence/human-family-tree.

“Analyzing Landscape Paintings in Terms of Ecological Adaptations” by Jordan Maus 

Have you ever wondered why people are drawn to art? What is going on in our brains as we look at a painting, and for the artist, why are they drawn to depict the objects they do? These questions can be explored through anthropology, and using multiple sources we can dive deeper into ourselves, and the world around us. The beauty of anthropology is it is always growing, and challenging itself, to offer the best answers possible to some of life’s biggest questions. One of the biggest being, what has a bigger effect on ourselves, nature versus nurture? Does how we see beauty stem from our genetically determined nature or from the shared culture around us? Could it be possible for the answer to be both? When looking at paintings, what can we find from what is depicted? Can we find patterns in the ecological nature of them? There is a lot yet to discover, but what answers we do have might surprise you, along with what they tell us about ourselves, and how we think. The digital age allows us to explore these topics deeper, and with more ease, such as being able to: analyze studies on the human brain, measure information on the history of our species, and find thousands of paintings online digitally scanned for comparison. To attempt to answer some of these big questions, it is important to dive into the background of evolution and natural selection, the effect of the environment on our biology, how we process art neurologically, and the ecological nature of paintings themselves.

In order to fully understand art, it is necessary to understand the background of evolution and natural selection. How humans evolved is an ongoing investigation, but anthropology offers several clues. Before evolving into our own species, it might surprise you that there are many similarities between humans and other primates. There have been discoveries that claim that it is possible for some apes to learn sign language, and even certain forms of music (Schoenberg 2021, 5.3.3). This shows that qualities we generally consider to be “human-like”, can and are, in fact, found in other animals. Coming from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens (where we are today), there are some evolutionary changes that give us an advantage over other similar species in certain respects. One being, walking on two feet, known as bipedalism. Scientists theorize that this became a reality for our species because it offers many advantages, such as opening up our hands for communication or tools–tools that eventually allowed us to build more sophisticated shelters and made it easier to obtain food. With shelter, and some of the necessities of life met, humans are able to explore deeper into other forms of expression, such as art.

It might not be a surprise that the beginning of art stems from the struggle of human survival and need for food. Over the years of research, new discoveries have been made in remote caves, finding depictions of animals, people, and more. One famous example is the Chauvet Caves in France. There is a debate on when exactly these cave paintings were created, but generally understood as roughly over 32,000 years ago. These cave paintings were created with charcoal, animal fat, and other materials. Many have been found around the world, but in France, the Chauvet Caves offer perhaps the greatest detail.
charcoal drawings of animal heads on a rock wall

Animals depicted in Chauvet Caves Claude Valette, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This image presents a powerful depiction of the earliest years of art. Researchers suspect the purpose of these drawings is primarily to communicate with other humans about wildlife nearby. This can be useful for passing groups of people, in order to protect themselves, or have a higher chance of finding food. The Chauvet Caves is an interesting example, for in some of the drawings the animals are interacting with each other, and a more detailed half of a human.

Does our nature change the way we see the world? Or at least how we think of beauty? “The presence of trees in beautiful landscapes, both in paintings and gardens, happens because the arboreal past that we share with primates triggers some set of neurons that were determined by genes to make us feel good” (Schoenberg 2021, 7.5.3). This perspective is interesting when exploring these questions, considering our primitive past being a factor of how we currently process beauty. This is where anthropology comes into play and having an understanding of primatology. The landscape around us plays a role in how we see the world, and affects the kind of matter depicted in art. Author and philosopher Denis Dutton makes an interesting discovery,

Landscapes suitable for human habitation and flourishing are richly varied, but for our ancestors not infinitely so. The average survival for Homo sapiens who had an emotional predisposition toward green and the potential for water in landscapes would have been evolutionarily decisive. [Dutton 2009, 25–26]

There are survival advantages in certain types of landscapes, and this can transfer over to what we find beautiful in art. Over time, this could lead to an advantage evolutionarily to be attracted to, say, greener landscapes. This concept makes sense, as green landscapes tend to offer better possibilities when it comes to gathering food, as does having access to water allows for greater survivability. Access to water also implies access to hunting, fishing, as well as easier travel. Dutton (2009) also argues that humans naturally are attracted to tasks done well, leading to carefully crafted paintings being more likely to be appreciated by others.

Evolution and natural selection play a major role in how we understand the world, especially when it comes to our understanding of beauty, both through sight and sound. As mentioned previously, green landscapes with access to water offered higher survivability rates, over time affecting what our brain finds to be attractive, even if it is in a survival sense. Evolution has resulted in people being drawn to creativity, at its most primitive sense, for a purpose. Another example of evolution playing a role in beauty is with music: “there is compelling evidence that music making provided some very specific benefits for our ancestors […] singing creates a shared emotional experience, singing increases social bonding, singing improves cognitive function” (Maury 2020). This is an interesting discovery, as all of these benefits from singing offer greater survivability. This links what can be seen as beauty, with increasing our chance to survive as humans. The same is true as mentioned earlier with the cave paintings communicating to others about wildlife or predators nearby. Understanding our past as a species, we find how it directly shapes our present.

How we process art in our brains is equally important. This process again can be traced back to survivability, and shapes our behavior even today. Author Anjan Chatterjee writes, “Other complex cognitive abilities, such as categorizing and reasoning, counting, recognizing emotions, inferring beliefs and desires of others, and acquiring language to communicate, also gave our ancestors a selective advantage and were passed on to us” (Chatterjee, 2014: 7). This all is important in how we process art and why we appreciate it. The recognition of emotions draws people to paintings–being able to share the experience with someone else’s struggles and pleasures. To understand how people process art, we can look at how people treat beauty in humans. Chatterjee continues to make interesting notes of studies where people found to be more attractive were more likely to have money returned to them and favors done for them (Chatterjee, 2014:1.6). This is interesting as it expresses people’s attraction to beauty itself, even changing the behavior and response during these studies. This is not a new phenomenon, and can be traced back to the mating process and even found in other animals. Going back, the more social animals could attract a partner, allowing for the continuation of that lineage. This over time could change what is painted, as it is how people use emotion and reasoning.

People have been finding new ways to quantify beauty and art, and it is still being actively researched. During my research I discovered that it is possible to study art, even in mathematical terms. One thought provoking study from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America brings up many crucial points. When talking about the American mathematician Birkhoff, they wrote, “He regarded beauty as a mathematical phenomenon and introduced an aesthetic measure M, defined as the ratio between “order” O and “complexity” C, where O and C were measured based on the number of structural regularities and elements of an artwork, respectively” (Lee, Seo, et al, 2020). Bringing a formula approach to beauty was new to me, but I discovered that it is useful when comparing large quantities of art, and art history as well. There is also people's nature to factor in when considering the structure of paintings, such as a tendency towards symmetry, and other design elements. This study from National Academy of Sciences continues to break down over 14,000 digitally scanned paintings by over a thousand different painters, and expanding on Birkhoff’s mathematical formula, are then able to divide the paintings into “partitions'. They use these partitions to analyze the structure of the paintings, and are then able to compare them accordingly. The paintings they analyzed spanned from the Western renaissance to contemporary art, and they found some fascinating patterns. They do note that when studying these digital scanned paintings, certain factors must be considered. One of them being that digital colors operate differently than colors painted in person. Another factor is the audience plays a key role, and how they look at the paintings, and what they see. Besides these two factors, they were still able to find some interesting discoveries. The paintings they chose to study were landscape paintings, and this has a variety of benefits. Compared to abstract art, landscape paintings offer more distinct partitions, clearer lines, all of which they label as “mutual information”. Even though landscape paintings offer an easier attempt at organizing, there are still many challenges. One being the study writes, “...are there nationally specific or transcendent characteristics in the composition of landscape paintings, such as Dutch flatland vs. Swiss mountains?” (Lee, Seo, et al, 2020). They had to consider all of these factors when analyzing the results. They found that landscape paintings can be divided and characterized into domination partitions. A more obvious finding was that landscape paintings follow a horizontal line structure preference, and abstract paintings did not (Lee, Seo, et al, 2020).

All of this together, brings some interesting answers to some of life’s biggest questions. Through anthropology, researching natural selection and evolution brings us closer to the answers. How humans looked at different landscapes with the purpose of survival, how the benefits of communication allowed for greater survival, how beauty can change our behavior. As a species evolving from Homo erectus to Homo sapiens, and the benefits in being humans we have, such as bipedalism, that allows us to use tools. How art is processed in our minds, changing how we see the world. From the Chauvet Cave paintings, that give us a fascinating look into the very beginning of paintings and their use, to using mathematical formulas to compare modern art history, this world is always full of discovery. With greater forms of technology evolving everyday, this journey of understanding art, and ourselves, will continue to unfold.


Andrei, Mihai. “The Amazing 32,000 Year Old Drawings in the Chauvet Cave.” ZME Science, 23 Mar. 2015, www.zmescience.com/science/archaeology/chauvet-cave-drawings-archaeology/. Accessed May 30th, 2021.

Chatterjee, Anjan. The Aesthetic Brain : How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art. Oxford University Press, 2014

Dutton, Dennis. The art instinct: beauty, pleasure and human evolution. Bloomsbury Press, New York, 2009

Lee, Byunghwee, et al. “Dissecting Landscape Art History with Information Theory.” Proceedings of National Academy of Sciences. 27 Oct. 2020, www.pnas.org/content/117/43/26580. Accessed May 30th, 2021.

Maury, Susan. “All Together Now – Three Evolutionary Perks of Singing.” The Conversation. 20 Oct. 2020, theconversation.com/all-together-now-three-evolutionary-perks-of-singing-35367. Accessed May 30th, 2021.

Schoenberg, Arnie. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. arnieschoenberg.com/anth/bio/intro/index.html. Accessed May 30th, 2021.

About the author:

My name is Jordan Maus, I graduated high school back in 2016, and have spent many years now in Southern California. Originally I'm from the Midwest, and try to go back and forth from there when I can. I am working towards a higher education to become financially independent is my goal. I'm trying to transfer to a University and am aiming to get into the finance/business sector out of college. I love nature, history, reading and film.

“Anthropological Aesthetics” by Ella Geonzon and Nicholas Roberge  

What makes a wife attracted to her husband’s face? Why does her husband prefer to look at paintings, instead of at her? This essay will briefly explore what and why humans find attractive in artwork & people. In order of appearance: Symmetry both in the human face, and artwork; relative hip to waist size; and resources in men. There are endless amounts of things people find attractive in people and paintings.

Both sexes find symmetrical faces attractive. Why? There are two main theories: A symmetrical visage is a sign of one’s good health- conferring an “Evolutionary Advantage” to its offspring. The second theory, Perceptual Bias, claims that since humans are “hardwired” to enjoy symmetrical objects - that preference is transferred over to the human face. Contradicting the latter theory is a study which took pictures of people’s faces, and altered them to be more symmetrical. Test subjects were then given those faces in two forms: Right-side up & upside down (in random order), before judging whether or not they were attractive. The study was conducted with both male and female faces, and both male and female participants. It was found that the upside-down faces were less attractive than those which weren’t. The study’s authors discussed that between the two theories, the Perceptual Bias suggests that people would have found the upside-down & right-side up faces equally attractive, as they were both equally symmetrical; only inverted along the x-axis. Evidence against this theory doesn’t necessarily prove its counterpart–the study’s title is, “Evidence Against perceptual bias views for symmetry preference in human faces”–not, “Evidence in favor of evolutionary advantage views”. But seeing as, to the best of our knowledge, there are only the two theories, this makes the evolutionary advantage one hold more water (Jones & Little 2003).

Artist or not, we all have a subconscious understanding of symmetry when we create or examine something. Our brains are wired to recognize patterns when they are present, sometimes even finding order in absolute chaos to make sense of the whole. The use of symmetry in artwork has been present for millennia, from the symbols found in ancient art, to the Renaissance, and to today’s architecture. The reasons we find symmetry attractive in potential mates potentially correlates to why we find it endearing in art. It’s a familiar and present aspect of nature and human beings, and is associated with balance and the natural order. The primary part of the brain that reacts to visual stimuli, the occipital lobe, instinctively scans visual objects for symmetrical qualities (Chatterjee 2013, 139). This suggests that reasoning for symmetry processing is explained by the Perceptual Bias idea, as it is “hardwired” into our brains: which would then be used to find mates or create any art and-when done so successfully- our brains respond positively. For example, The Vitruvian Man by Leonardo da Vinci is an iconic piece of art that considers the golden ratio and a body’s symmetry when aligned in a circle and square. Based on anatomy and measurements, the piece explores the ‘perfect proportions’ of the human body, ideas taken from the Roman architect, Vitruvius and has been a significant piece of work throughout the centuries. Not only is it satisfying to examine because our brains can find the formality in it, but it also showcases beauty in the image and text.

drawing, ink on paper, depicts a man in two superimposed positions with his arms and legs apart and inscribed in a circle and square with notes above and below

Leonardo DaVinci notebook, "Le proporzioni del corpo umano secondo Vitruvio", photo by Luc Viatour (Public Domain)

A trait found attractive in, and by, women is the relatively narrow size of their waist to their hips; although the preferred size of those two body parts differs across cultures. For instance the Ethiopian beauty standard is that broader hips are found attractive, women therein exaggerate the size of their hips by stuffing cloth into their dresses. A potential explanation: the number of infants those women are expected to produce is high by Western considerations; ergo broader hips may be more capable of bearing many children. If hip size is related to the amount of children women typically produce- would that mean that in the West there’s a preference for more slight proportions? Well, in the US there is a preference for a narrow frame, which may be thanks to our comparatively lower birth-rates (Morris 2013). In fact, in Southern California, rib removal surgeries are done to make the waist smaller, accentuate an hourglass figure, and make the hips seem broader by comparison (Beverly Hills Plastic Surgery 2021). But, between these two different cultures- there is a constant: to possess hips broader than the waist is generally attractive. This is even found between sexes. In a study conducted by Bluebella, a British lingerie company, 500 men & 500 women were polled to create the “Perfect male and female bodies''. The study’s details are unfortunately murky; it seems as though the test subjects were surveyed to digitally pick out individual limbs from celebrities to create an ‘ideal body’- a Frankenstein-esque, virtual amalgamation of all the selected appendages. Then it appears the most common results were released. In women’s “Perfect female body”- it had hips (Emma Watson’s) broader than the narrow waist (Gwyneth Paltrow’s),  the male version of the “Perfect female body” had even larger hips (Kelly Brook’s) & a narrower waist (Michelle Keegans) (Stampler 2014). Both sexes preferred a waist narrower than the hips in women. One of the roles the sex hormone estrogen plays in a women’s reproductive development is widening the hips during puberty. Although estrogen is found in both sexes, it is found in higher levels among women (Bradford 2017). In other words, wide hips is a distinctly feminine feature and is sought after by members of both sexes.

The physical traits women find attractive in men are incredibly variable (Conroy-Beam et al. 2015), but there is one non-physical, perhaps universal, trait that is found attractive: access to wealth. “Women’s preferences to mate with men possessing resources and cues to resource acquisition are the most documented findings in the human mating literature” (Buss 1991, 4). Having resources is a trait women tend to find attractive in men between cultures, continents and countries (Buss 1991; Conroy-Beam et al 2015).  The preference is so universal, we theorize if a new race of humans were discovered residing under the earth’s surface- the society’s women would still prefer the men with the shiniest rocks. Why? The inclination is tied to the difficulties of giving birth.To reproduce, a woman necessarily tolerates the burdens of pregnancy and, to its complement, child-rearing. Throughout the two processes, the female finds herself in a difficult position due to their mutual requirements for more energy. The CDC (2020) recommends a daily intake for the average female of 1800-2000 calories. However, when pregnant the recommended caloric consumption is about 10% higher than otherwise (Hakakha 2015). While breastfeeding, the intake can increase to, of the advised, 125% or 2,500 calories per day (CDC 2020). A relative who shares ample nutrition during this period would confer, unto both parties, an evolutionary advantage. If the two starve to death, their genes fail to pass on; if God is professor of Evolution, they would have just bombed the test. Ergo, a male’s ability and willingness to provide resources is found attractive. This is also why kindness and stability are widely found attractive in men (Beam et al. 2015).

Our research has demonstrated that at least some of the reasons things are determined attractive are tied to evolution. In landscape paintings, it has to do with natural selection. In people, our sexual selection has to do with what will allow our genes to carry on into the next generation with the greatest possible advantage, whether it’s resources or symmetry. However, we struggle to find an evolutionary explanation for the preference of symmetry in artwork. We expected it to be tied to our preference for symmetry in faces, but we found that assumption to be, unfortunately, incorrect. Most explanations for symmetrical predilections in artwork posit that it is thanks to some “hardwired” part of our brain. Perhaps in future studies the exact explanation will be elucidated.


Bradford, Alina. 2017. "What Is Estrogen?" LiveScience. Purch. https://www.livescience.com/38324-what-is-estrogen.html#:~:text=At%20the%20onset%20of%20puberty,first%20part%20of%20the%20cycle, accessed April 12, 2021.

Buss, David M. 1991 "Do Women Have Evolved Mate Preferences for Men With Resources?" DeepBlue. https://deepblue.lib.umich.edu/bitstream/handle/2027.42/29156/0000200.pdf, accessed April 26, 2021.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Maternal Diet." 2020. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/breastfeeding/breastfeeding-special-circumstances/diet-and-micronutrients/maternal-diet.html, accessed April 26, 2021.

Chatterjee, Anjan. “The Aesthetic Brain: How We Evolved to Desire Beauty and Enjoy Art” 201.3

Conroy-Beam, Daniel, David M. Buss, Michael N. Pham, and Todd K. Shackleford. 2015. "How Sexually Dimorphic Are Human Mate Preferences?" Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Society for Personality and Social Psychology. https://labs.la.utexas.edu/buss/files/2013/02/Conroy-Beam-sexual-dimorphic-2015.pdf, accessed April 26, 2021

Dutton, Denis. “Aesthetics & Evolutionary Psychology”. 2003. http://www.denisdutton.com/aesthetics_&_evolutionary_psychology.htm

Hakakha, Michele. 02, July 2015 "Does Pregnancy Cause a Woman to Eat More?" Parents. Meredith. https://www.parents.com/pregnancy/signs/does-pregnancy-cause-a-woman-to-eat-more/#:~:text=A%3A%20Pregnancy%20will%20absolutely%20cause,1800%20and%202500%20kilocalories%2Fday, accessed April 26, 2021

Little, Anthony C., and Benedict C. Jones. 2003. “Evidence against Perceptual Bias Views for Symmetry Preferences in Human Faces.” ResearchGate. PubMed, accessed April 9, 2021

Ludden, David. 2019. "Do Women Really Prefer Men with Money Over Looks?" Psychology Today. Sussex Publishers. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/talking-apes/201907/do-women-really-prefer-men-money-over-looks, accessed April 20, 2021

Miko. "Plastic Surgery Rib Removal" 2021. https://www.mikoplasticsurgery.com/rib-removal/, accessed April 12, 2021

Morris, Desmond "The Human Sexes: Language Of The Sexes" 2013 YouTube. https://youtu.be/YWFuwmi-gs4?t=699, accessed April 12, 2021

Wikipedia “Savannah Hypothesis” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation 10 April, 2021 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Savannah_hypothesis

Schoenberg, Arnie. Introduction to Physical Anthropology. 10 March, 2021. https://arnieschoenberg.com/anth/bio/intro/section7.html#art

Stampler, Laura. 2014. "Perfect Body According to Men and Women; Bluebella Lingerie Survey. Time. https://time.com/65901/how-men-and-women-differ-when-drawing-up-the-perfect-body/, accessed April 12, 2021

About the authors

Ella Geonzon was born in the Philippines but moved to San Diego at an early age and grew up there. This is her first year at City College, and is majoring in Film Production. Her goal is to finish her GE's so she can fully focus on film afterwards but she takes great interest in history, anthropology, writing and psychology.

Nicholas Roberge was born in San Diego, and has lived there his entire life. He’s not sure what he’s going to do with himself, but he likes to write.