Nature Anthropology Open Access

ISSN: 2959-7641 (Online)

2959-7633 (Print)

An Official Journal of Shanghai Society of Anthropology 

Nature Anthropology is a transnational journal devoted to researches on humankind, encompassing the full range of anthropological scholarship on human origin and diversification. Communicating across the subfields, the journal features papers in a wide variety of areas, including physical, cultural, and social anthropology as well as human genomics and phenomics, population genetics, ethnology and ethnohistory, archaeology and prehistory, folklore, and linguistics. All articles are expected to provide sufficient data and evidences to support certain solid conclusions.

Editors-in-Chief

Articles (16) All articles

Article

27 May 2024

The Strange Question of Species: Biocratic Implications in Interwar Paleoanthropology

Species was one of the most controversial concepts in biological science. Not even the “New Systematics” of the 1930s and 1940s succeeded in bringing complete clarity to the issue. During the first half of the twentieth century the conceptualization of species was challenged by paleontology, a then-emerging discipline, but an ancient essentialist conception resisted, whereby each species is characterized by its own immutable essence (eidos). This simplification was transferred to physical anthropology in the study of human populations, with further cultural and political outcomes. For example: the meaning of species developed a series of biopolitical and legal implications regarding the construction of a society preserved from foreign dangerous bodies. From this perspective, the racial policy of the Third Reich established that the German national community was to be based on belonging to a same species (Art), from which Jewish population was excluded, considering it an alien species (Artfremd) and therefore incompatible. The concept of species, defined from an essentialist perspective, was in fact considered more differentiating and selective than that of “race”. Consequently, foreignness to the human species became a more radical distinguishing factor than racial classification. The article, with a focus on German academia, aims to reconstruct the debate in paleoanthropology during interwar period.

Article

17 May 2024

Article

22 April 2024

Paleo-Asian Cultural Phenomena of Ancient Beringia: Population Convergence and Solution of Ethnic Self-Identification

Authors offer for a discussion the materials from studies of archaic culture elements that include body modifications in ethnic groups in the context of population genetic data from native peoples of the Far North. The authors consider materials from the territory of ancient Beringia which include a part of Chukotka and Kamchatka in Russia, Alaska in the USA and several island groups in between. The working hypothesis of the study involves the identification of common and specific features of body modifications in ethnic groups having similar population genesis. This allows to clarify the specifics of the regional contacts. Body modifications (tattoos, piercings, etc.) are considered as a way of a person’s self-identification and a form of his group membership (in this case—ethnic group). The study used ethnographic, archaeological, paleo-history, folklore materials and up-to-date data that include genetic research of contemporary ethnic groups inhabiting the territory of ancient Beringia and maintaining their traditional way of life. The methodology base of the research is based on formalized approach and cross-cultural analysis evidence of the similarity/difference of the population in combination with the method of comparative analysis of DNA data and information about their genetic structure.

Comment

19 April 2024

Review

15 April 2024

Human Mobility in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean during Hellenistic and Roman Times: The Potential and Limitations of Bioarchaeological Research

This paper offers a review of bioarchaeological research on human mobility during the Hellenistic and Roman period in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean. This period was marked by significant connectivity amidst the establishment of major political entities. The paper begins with an overview of bioarchaeological methods used to study past mobility, including biodistance, isotopic and ancient DNA analyses. It then examines published studies that have utilized these methods to explore mobility during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The paper concludes by critically assessing the current research limitations and proposing directions for future studies. These suggestions emphasize the importance of conducting additional research to investigate human mobility in neglected areas, as well as at different temporal and spatial scales. Integrating mobility data with other sources of evidence, such as historical accounts, paleoenvironmental data and osteobiographic information is another important future direction of research. Finally, relevant research should be more theoretically informed and its contemporary implications should be effectively communicated within and beyond the academic community. An enhancement of our understanding of the nature and impact of mobility is crucial in today’s society, where misconceptions linking immigration to the decline of the Roman Empire can perpetuate biases against contemporary mobility. 

Article

01 April 2024

Fighting Arts on Today’s Coins, Medals and Badges: Popularity or Uniqueness

Background. Medallic art is used to promote the subject matter which is important for the issuer. Also fighting arts and martial traditions are used here as icons in the coins and medals. Problem. What is the purpose of occasional coins, medals or badges relative to their contents or symbolism, the metal used or the volume of the release? Does an issuer aim at promotion or rather at recognition and at maintaining the uniqueness? Material and Method. The study uses a regression method, comparative analysis and literature review. Approximately one hundred examples are discussed. Statistical analyses took into account N = 64 of contemporary coins (47) and medals (17), representing the relevant thematic groups. Pearson C coefficient was calculated for the factor of popularity FA and a number of variables. Results. It has been found that medals are issued in small volumes and are significantly varied in terms of the subject matter (uniqueness and originality). Some organisations seek to ensure the exceptional status of medal-type award which is granted based on strictly defined rules. Conclusions. Presentations of martial arts on coins, medals and badges make reference to the related symbolism or to the issuer’s national traditions. Large volume releases are mainly done for promotional purposes. On the other hand medals issued in small numbers are meant to be unique—they find their way to a select group of people deserving special recognition.

Commentary

21 February 2024

Editorial

17 January 2024

Perspective

05 January 2024

The Future of Artificial Intelligence Will Be “Next to Normal”—A Perspective on Future Directions and the Psychology of AI Safety Concerns

This paper introduces the AI “next to normal”-thesis, suggesting that as Artificial Intelligence becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, it will transition from a sensationalized entity to a regular tool. However, this normalization has psychosocial implications, particularly when it comes to AI safety concerns. The “next to normal”-thesis proposes that AI will soon be perceived as a standard component of our technological interactions, with its sensationalized nature diminishing over time. As AI’s integration becomes more seamless, many users may not even recognize their interactions with AI systems. The paper delves into the psychology of AI safety concerns, discussing the “Mere Exposure Effect” and the “Black Box Effect”. While the former suggests that increased exposure to AI leads to a more positive perception, the latter highlights the unease stemming from not fully understanding its capabilities. These effects can be seen as two opposing forces shaping the public’s perception of the technology. The central claim of the thesis is that as AI progresses to become normal, human psychology will evolve alongside with it and safety concerns will diminish, which may have practical consequences. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of the “next to normal”-thesis and offers recommendations for the industry and policymakers, emphasizing the need for increased transparency, continuous education, robust regulation, and empirical research. The future of AI is envisioned as one that is seamlessly integrated into society, yet it is imperative to address the associated safety concerns proactively and not take the normalization effects take ahold of it.

Letter

15 December 2023

Have We Been Barking up the Wrong Ancestral Tree? Australopithecines Are Probably Not Our Ancestors

The dominant paradigm regarding human evolution since the split with Pan considers australopithecines as hominins, i.e., the closest relatives and/or direct ancestors of Homo. Historically, this paradigm started from the assumption that the Homo/Pan/Gorilla last common ancestor was a knuckle-walking ape that evolved into the fully upright (orthograde), obligate bipedal genus Homo, whereas Pan and Gorilla remained knuckle-walkers. Obligate terrestrial upright bipedalism, unique for our species, is an odd locomotor behaviour for a primate. Therefore, it had become generally accepted that a cooler and drier African climate had caused deforestation, which had forced our ancestors to develop upright bipedalism as an adaptation to living on open grassland savannah. This view, already held by Lamarck and Darwin, appeared most parsimonious in the almost complete absence of fossils. The discovery in the 20th century of australopithecine fossils, bipedal apes with small brains, in open country in southern and eastern Africa corroborated the savannah paradigm. Therefore, australopithecines are considered hominins. However, it is now recognized that most australopithecines instead lived in a mosaic of forests, grasslands and wetlands, and better knowledge of their fossils clearly indicates that they possessed several climbing adaptations. Moreover, none of the extinct ape species older than Australopithecus and Paranthropus for which postcranial remains have been described (e.g., Morotopithecus, Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus) were knuckle-walking. On the other hand, upright posture/gait is already present to different degrees even in Miocene apes. Moreover, the notion that hominoid orthogrady is a primitive characteristic is corroborated by the growing consensus that knuckle-walking is not a primitive trait but has evolved in parallel, independently in both Pan and Gorilla. Consequently, it is possible that australopithecines are not transitional between a semi-erect ancestor and upright bipedal humans, but to the contrary, are intermediate between a more upright ancestor and extant semi-erect African apes. In summary, hypotheses that attempt to explain how a semi-erect Homo/Pan last common ancestor transitioned into the bipedal australopithecines as an adaptation to life on the savannah appear to be ill-conceived and moreover seem to have been superfluous from the very start. We review the numerous similarities between australopithecines and extant African apes, suggesting that they are possibly not hominins and therefore not our direct ancestors. We suggest that we may have been barking up the wrong ancestral tree, for almost a century.

Letter

15 December 2023

Have We Been Barking up the Wrong Ancestral Tree? Australopithecines Are Probably Not Our Ancestors

The dominant paradigm regarding human evolution since the split with Pan considers australopithecines as hominins, i.e., the closest relatives and/or direct ancestors of Homo. Historically, this paradigm started from the assumption that the Homo/Pan/Gorilla last common ancestor was a knuckle-walking ape that evolved into the fully upright (orthograde), obligate bipedal genus Homo, whereas Pan and Gorilla remained knuckle-walkers. Obligate terrestrial upright bipedalism, unique for our species, is an odd locomotor behaviour for a primate. Therefore, it had become generally accepted that a cooler and drier African climate had caused deforestation, which had forced our ancestors to develop upright bipedalism as an adaptation to living on open grassland savannah. This view, already held by Lamarck and Darwin, appeared most parsimonious in the almost complete absence of fossils. The discovery in the 20th century of australopithecine fossils, bipedal apes with small brains, in open country in southern and eastern Africa corroborated the savannah paradigm. Therefore, australopithecines are considered hominins. However, it is now recognized that most australopithecines instead lived in a mosaic of forests, grasslands and wetlands, and better knowledge of their fossils clearly indicates that they possessed several climbing adaptations. Moreover, none of the extinct ape species older than Australopithecus and Paranthropus for which postcranial remains have been described (e.g., Morotopithecus, Sahelanthropus, Orrorin, Ardipithecus) were knuckle-walking. On the other hand, upright posture/gait is already present to different degrees even in Miocene apes. Moreover, the notion that hominoid orthogrady is a primitive characteristic is corroborated by the growing consensus that knuckle-walking is not a primitive trait but has evolved in parallel, independently in both Pan and Gorilla. Consequently, it is possible that australopithecines are not transitional between a semi-erect ancestor and upright bipedal humans, but to the contrary, are intermediate between a more upright ancestor and extant semi-erect African apes. In summary, hypotheses that attempt to explain how a semi-erect Homo/Pan last common ancestor transitioned into the bipedal australopithecines as an adaptation to life on the savannah appear to be ill-conceived and moreover seem to have been superfluous from the very start. We review the numerous similarities between australopithecines and extant African apes, suggesting that they are possibly not hominins and therefore not our direct ancestors. We suggest that we may have been barking up the wrong ancestral tree, for almost a century.

Mario Vaneechoutte
Frances Mansfield
Stephen Munro
Marc Verhaegen

Perspective

12 June 2023

Encounter between Present Female Characters and Neolithic Inscribed Symbols Prior to Oracle-bone Inscriptions

Inscribed symbols of Neolithic Age were sometimes suspected to be initial writing prior to developed writing system. The earliest developed writing system in China was Oracle-bone inscriptions (OBIs) of Bronze Age and researchers have long sought its predecessor. Here, we reported that two continuous symbols on a stone ax of Neolithic Liangzhu culture found their identical duplicates in a unique writing system on brocade belts woven by present women in Shanghai suburb. Women in this group duplicated the hereditary text for weddings only once each generation in the past, and they can still interpret these two characters, implying that the two identical Liangzhu symbols may have the similar meanings. The meanings and patterns are both similar to those in OBIs, suggesting that Liangzhu symbols might be one of the predecessors of OBIs. Integrating philology, genetics, linguistics, and folklore, we discussed that special small population may inherit both the genetic structure and convert culture for extremely long time, such as this population in southern Shanghai.

LufeiWang
QichengYe
HuiLi

Editorial

18 April 2023
Shanghai Society of Anthropology

Article

20 July 2023

Fine-scale Genetic Structure of Geographically Distinct Patrilineal Lineages Delineates Southward Migration Routes for Han Chinese

The Han Chinese (HAN) represent the world’s largest ethnic group, and their genetic structure has been the focus of numerous studies. Yet previous studies failed to draw out finer population stratification of patrilineal HAN, due to limitations in sample size and genetic marker density. This essay employs a Y-haplogroup frequency dataset from virtually whole China aiming to draw out a detailed genetic structure of the patrilineal HAN. We provide an overview of the Y chromosome haplogroup distributions, and find that the patrilineal HAN can be divided into five geographic subgroups. Analysis of Molecular Variance (AMOVA) provided further support for the five-substructure model. By comparing patrilineal and matrilineal descent, we revealed stronger geographical aggregation for patrilineal HAN. Moreover, populations with patrilineal descent showed lower levels of haplogroup diversity (HD) compared to those with matrilineal descent, suggesting potential population bottleneck of patrilineal HAN. The larger HD among northern patrilines verified historical migration of HAN from north to south, which validated by neighbor joining tree (NJ-tree). Overall, we speculate the southward migration routes for Han Chinese, and the HAN south of the Nanling Mountains may have entered via the middle reaches of the Yangtze River, rather than via eastern coastal provinces.

YichenTao
Juanjuan Zhou
Letong Liang
Edward Allen
YetaoZou
Zishuai Huang
HuiLi

Perspective

06 July 2023

An Extremely Long Span of the Sun-Earth Pattern in the History of China

Chinese people believe that they are descendants of the prehistory Emperors Yan and Huang, while Yan (hot/red) and Huang (yellow) are the colors of the sun and earth. In the Dahecun style of Yangshao Culture archaeological culture of the legendary Yan and Huang’s period, the patterns of the sun and earth were frequently painted on the religious potteries, implying that the paired symbols might refer to the two emperors. However, the same paired pattern appeared in Shangshan Culture much earlier than Yangshao, indicating that the worship of Sun-Earth might have a quite long history prior to the two emperors. The pattern was inherited in the populations of China till today. The Jade Bi-Cong group of late Neolithic and early Bronze Age China also showed the same meanings and shapes. We found that the Sun-Earth pattern was quite common on the traditional brocade belts woven in the countryside around Shanghai. The origin of the sun shape was easy to understand, while that of the earth shape, a cross with or without an outline square, was hard to trace. Recent archaeological discovery in Shangshan Culture of a kind of yellow pyramid stone provided a new clue to the origin of earth symbol.

WenliJin
HuainiXu

Article

08 August 2023

Where Do Chinese Doublets Come From?—The Doublets from Prehistory to the Era of the Book of Poetry

The earliest writing in China is the oracle bone inscriptions of the Shang Dynasty, which records early Chinese, also known as oracle bone Chinese, which are all monosyllabic-words (1300 BC). In the Bronze Inscriptions of the Western Zhou Dynasty and later handed down documents, doublets appear (beginning in 1046 BC). At present, the philological academy believes that the doublets recorded with two Chinese single-characters come from reduplication of two single-character symbols, but there is no complete argument and reliable evidence. This article, by using the opposite method of argument, reversely assumes that the single-characters (monosyllabic words) come from doublets and tries to demonstrate it. The article proves the truth of the origin of doublets based on the word distribution and semantic correspondence between doublets and single-characters in “the Book of Poetry”, that is, doublets are the source and single-characters are flows. Among them, 39.66% of the doublets have no corresponding single-characters, and they are the characters created to record doublets; 41.92% of the meanings of doublets have nothing to do with the meanings of single-characters, which proves that the doublets does not come from the combination of single-characters; 12.46% of the meanings of doublets are interpreted as the meanings of single-characters, which are the subjective errors of later generations of interpreters; the remaining 5.66% are only associated with proclitics and enclitics rather than single-characters. Finally, the article proposes that doublets originate from a unique mechanism of expressive morphology, which is a new type of etymological theory outside the morphological grammar system, and can create various polysyllabic ideophones, including the onomatopoeia or mimetic words. The article proves that a language begins with the creation of words. In the prehistoric period before the oracle bone inscriptions, Chinese ancestors had invented a large number of distinctive doublets (AA), couplets (AB) and other polysyllabic words (xA, or ABB, ABA’B), or ideophones. Due to the difficulty of writing, the doublets were hidden in spoken language for hundreds of years. It was not until the time of “Book of Poetry” and “Book of History” in the bronze inscriptions of the Western Zhou Dynasty that it entered the history and has continued to this day. Doublets are the earliest Chinese words and the beginning of Chinese civilization.

DiJiang

Perspective

05 January 2024

The Future of Artificial Intelligence Will Be “Next to Normal”—A Perspective on Future Directions and the Psychology of AI Safety Concerns

This paper introduces the AI “next to normal”-thesis, suggesting that as Artificial Intelligence becomes more ingrained in our daily lives, it will transition from a sensationalized entity to a regular tool. However, this normalization has psychosocial implications, particularly when it comes to AI safety concerns. The “next to normal”-thesis proposes that AI will soon be perceived as a standard component of our technological interactions, with its sensationalized nature diminishing over time. As AI’s integration becomes more seamless, many users may not even recognize their interactions with AI systems. The paper delves into the psychology of AI safety concerns, discussing the “Mere Exposure Effect” and the “Black Box Effect”. While the former suggests that increased exposure to AI leads to a more positive perception, the latter highlights the unease stemming from not fully understanding its capabilities. These effects can be seen as two opposing forces shaping the public’s perception of the technology. The central claim of the thesis is that as AI progresses to become normal, human psychology will evolve alongside with it and safety concerns will diminish, which may have practical consequences. The paper concludes by discussing the implications of the “next to normal”-thesis and offers recommendations for the industry and policymakers, emphasizing the need for increased transparency, continuous education, robust regulation, and empirical research. The future of AI is envisioned as one that is seamlessly integrated into society, yet it is imperative to address the associated safety concerns proactively and not take the normalization effects take ahold of it.

YoshijaWalter

Editorial

17 January 2024

Review

14 December 2023

Review

15 April 2024

Human Mobility in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean during Hellenistic and Roman Times: The Potential and Limitations of Bioarchaeological Research

This paper offers a review of bioarchaeological research on human mobility during the Hellenistic and Roman period in the Central and Eastern Mediterranean. This period was marked by significant connectivity amidst the establishment of major political entities. The paper begins with an overview of bioarchaeological methods used to study past mobility, including biodistance, isotopic and ancient DNA analyses. It then examines published studies that have utilized these methods to explore mobility during the Hellenistic and Roman periods. The paper concludes by critically assessing the current research limitations and proposing directions for future studies. These suggestions emphasize the importance of conducting additional research to investigate human mobility in neglected areas, as well as at different temporal and spatial scales. Integrating mobility data with other sources of evidence, such as historical accounts, paleoenvironmental data and osteobiographic information is another important future direction of research. Finally, relevant research should be more theoretically informed and its contemporary implications should be effectively communicated within and beyond the academic community. An enhancement of our understanding of the nature and impact of mobility is crucial in today’s society, where misconceptions linking immigration to the decline of the Roman Empire can perpetuate biases against contemporary mobility. 

EfthymiaNikita

Topic Collection

Genetic and Cultural Identity in 21st Century

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