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Anthropology/Changes in people


I was wondering. Is anthropology the study of people as they change over time? I was wondering if there was a way people have measured the changes in values, fears of procecutions, and other things hat represent the zeitguist of various times in human history. I was thinking it might be interesting to create one of those silly test people take online to determine the time period they "should have" been born into. :)

Hi James
Anthropology started out as comparative history (in the 19th Century "ethnology"), but during the 20th Century, it became fragmented into separate fields, cultural anthropology (beliefs, behavior or living humans), physical anthropology (study of living primates, fossils of human ancestors), linguistics, and archaeology (studies residues of past behavior).  The larger enterprise of comparative history became less central to these specialized subfields, but it remains on the research agendas of archaeology and cultural anthropology.  For example, V. Gordon Childe (What Happened in History) or Erik Wolf (Europe and the People without History).
Historians themselves and scholars in other fields have also joined into this comparative history movement, eg. Jared Diamond's book, Guns, Germs, and Steel.  The term "Big History" or (in French) the" Annales School" of long-term and comparative history are related developments.
Your "when should I have been born" project sounds fun.  (I've long thought, and my wife agrees, that I should have been born around 12,000 years ago among the first people to wander over here to the New World from Siberia.)
John Shea


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John Shea


Questions about Old World prehistoric archaeology (especially Stone Age) of Europe, Africa, and Western Asia, prehistoric human and hominid behavior, primitive technology, origin of modern humans, extinction of the Neandertals. IMPORTANT: Between February 14 and September 01, 2014, I will be on sabbatical leave. During this time I will have limited access to email. This means that there may be very long periods (i.e., weeks) between your posting a question and my having time to answer it.


>20 years as a professional anthropologist based at a research university.

Journal of Field Archaeology, Journal of Archaeological Science, Lithic Technology, Evolutionary Anthropology, Current Anthropology, Mitekufat HaEven (Journal of the Israel Prehistoric Society), Paléorient, Annual of the Department of Antiquities of Jordan, American Anthropologist, Geoarchaeology.

Ph.D (Anthropology) Harvard University, 1991.
BA (Archaeology) Boston University, 1982.

Awards and Honors
Sigma Xi Distinguished Lecturer 2012-2014

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