Anthropology and Human Modernity

Part of the Anthropology For Dummies Cheat Sheet

Modern humans have physical and behavioral differences from ancient humans. When you're studying anthropology — specifically, modernity in humans — keep these points in mind. They highlight the most important characteristics of anatomical and behavioral human modernity:

  • Anatomical modernity is having anatomical characteristics indistinguishable from modern, living humans. Appearing by 100,000 years ago, these characteristics include a larger brain (averaging 1,450cc's), a larger body overall, and the presence of a chin.

  • Behavioral modernity is behaving in ways that are indistinguishable from modern humans; it appears by 100,000 to 50,000 years ago and includes symbolism (the use of one thing to represent another thing), complex language (with complex grammar), and complex tool use (such as the use of symmetrical tools).

  • Modern humans colonized sub-Himalayan East Asia by 80,000 BP (before present), Southeast Asia and Australia by 40,000 BP, Europe at least by 30,000 BP, the New World by 14,000BP, and the Pacific and Arctic by 1,000 BP.

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