Welcome to Explorations: An Open Invitation to Biological Anthropology. We (the editors) joined together in 2017 to create this dynamic and comprehensive Open Educational Resource (OER) for biological anthropology. We were motivated by the lack of existing OER in this subdiscipline and by a desire to save our students money on textbooks. We were also inspired by the recent success of Perspectives: An Open Invitation to Cultural Anthropology and supported by the editors of Perspectives and by the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges (SACC), a section of the American Anthropological Association that consists of higher-education instructors who promote teaching excellence in anthropology. Together, the four editors bring to this project decades of experience in the classroom and a commitment to creating a resource that speaks to our students, sparking their interest in scientific inquiry and anthropological discoveries.
This project is also grounded in the wider OER movement that emerged as a response to the skyrocketing costs of traditional textbooks. These costs, along with increased tuition, create serious barriers to student learning and success, especially for students dealing with financial constraints. As anthropologists concerned with social equity, we find that OER can begin to level the playing field within academia by enabling all students, regardless of socioeconomic status, to access materials they need to succeed in their courses.
An OER for YOU
Students: This textbook has been created with you and your success in mind. The editors and authors are experienced instructors who hope to engage your curiosity and questions about humankind. It is available to you for FREE!
Instructors: We commend you for making the inspired choice to adopt this textbook written, reviewed, and edited by anthropology instructors. Like other OER, Explorations offers you the academic freedom to align course materials with your own pedagogy, course content, and areas of expertise. Rather than conform your course to the chapters of a conventional textbook, you are free to modify, supplement, or add to this textbook. This is why we chose to publish Explorations with a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0), which allows anyone to remix, adapt, transform, and build upon the contents. In other words, you can use this book as it is or alter it by reorganizing, omitting chapters or sections of chapters, assigning only some chapters, or curating chapter selections. The only requirement is that you credit the authors and source, specify the license, and indicate any changes made. In the spirit of open education, this textbook and the content within cannot be used for commercial purposes.
We view Explorations as a dynamic text: we encourage your contributions on an ongoing basis. You may contribute by simply spreading the word! This textbook started as a grassroots endeavor that gained momentum by virtue of support from our professional communities, colleagues, and students. You may also contribute substantially by providing feedback, corrections, updated information, or additional research via the form on our website or by sending an email to email@example.com. We recognize that biological anthropology is ever-evolving as new discoveries challenge prior understandings to extend knowledge of our species.
Explorations: Mission and Organization
Anthropology is the study of humanity, in all its biological and cultural aspects, past and present. It is a four-field discipline comprised of biological anthropology, cultural anthropology, archaeology, and linguistic anthropology. The focus of this book is biological anthropology, which explores who we are from biological, evolutionary, and adaptive perspectives.
We lay the foundation for this inquiry in the first four chapters by introducing the discipline of anthropology, evolutionary theory, molecular biology and genetics, and the forces of evolution. Chapters 5–8 consider evolutionary, biological, and social aspects of our closest living relatives, nonhuman primates, with whom we share millions of years of evolution. We also learn about how fossils provide material insight into our past. Chapters 9–12 describe prior hominin species and the emergence of Homo sapiens, us! Finally, the last four chapters (Chapters 13–16) explore human biological variation and the concept of race, bioarchaeology and forensic anthropology, and human biology and health in the past and present. We include further readings on osteology (Appendix A), primate conservation (Appendix B), and human behavioral ecology (Appendix C). To guide your reading, each chapter begins with learning objectives and ends with review questions and a list of key terms.
This book is for our students, past, present, and future, who inspire us to be better educators and better anthropologists.
The editors met through the Society for Anthropology in Community Colleges (SACC), which provided, and continues to provide, the collegial context in which this textbook emerged. We thank SACC for its support and seed money to begin this project. We appreciate the American Anthropological Association (AAA) for housing our book on their website, providing our ISBN, and publishing printed copies of this book at low cost. We thank the University of Hawai’i OER initiative for providing access to Pressbooks, the formatting software we used for this project.
We also thank the editors of Perspectives: Nina Brown, Laura Tubelle de Gonzalez, and Thomas McIlwraith for their guidance and encouragement.
We are grateful for grants we received to finance this project. The Minnesota State Innovation Grant enabled us to hire professional copy editors and illustrators to ensure a professional product. We appreciate the support and guidance from Stephen Kelly, Minnesota State Open Education and Innovation Program Coordinator. The Academic Senate for California Community Colleges- OER Initiative (ASCCC-OERI) funded the development of our ancillary materials (lecture slides and test banks) to enhance this textbook (see Teaching Resources on our website).
Finally, this book would not be possible without the outstanding voluntary efforts of our 41 authors and 48 reviewers. Thank you!
Beth, Katie, Kelsie, and Lara
Jessica Amato, Napa Valley College
Lindsay Barone, DNA Learning Center
Lisa Becker, Anoka Ramsey Community College
James Bindon, The University of Alabama
Samantha Blatt, Idaho State University
Nina Brown, The Community College of Baltimore County
Jennifer Byrnes, University of Hawai’i – West O’ahu
Keith Chan, Grossmont College
Shannon Clinkinbeard, Sierra College and California State University, Chico
Victoria Clow, Dallas County Community College District
Katherine Fernandez, Wichita State University
Monique Fortunato, Cosumnes River College
Davette Gadison, Tulane University
Sydney Garcia, San Diego Museum of Man
Justin Garcia, Millersville University of Pennsylvania
Kimberly Garza, University of Illinois at Chicago
Rebecca Gilmour, McMaster University
Laura Tubelle de Gonzalez, Miramar College
Kaitlin Hakanson, Klamath Community College
Carol Hayman, Austin Community College
Maureen Hickey, Los Angeles Mission College
Angela Jenks, University of California, Irvine
Alexandra Klales, Washburn University
Winsome Lee, Kenyon International Emergency Services
Chris Maier, Eckerd College
Katherine McElvaney, University of Houston
Tad McIlwraith, University of Guelph
Cara Monroe, University of Oklahoma
Matthew O’Brien, California State University, Chico
Kathryn Olszowy, New Mexico State University
Carolyn Orbann, University of Missouri
Tanusree Pandit, Panjab University, Educational Institution, Chandigarh
Amanda Paskey, Cosumnes River College
Betsy Abrams Rich, Los Angeles Valley College and Santa Monica College
Benjamin Schaefer, Georgia State University
Arnie Schoenberg, San Diego City College
Laure Spake, Simon Fraser University
Jay VanderVeen, Indiana University South Bend
Marco Vidal Cordasco, National Research Center on Human Evolution (CENIEH)
Sandra Wheeler, University of Central Florida
Kyleb Wild, Grossmont College
Marlo Willows, Palomar College
Kristin Wilson, Cabrillo College
Katrina Worley, American River College
Heather Worne, University of Kentucky
Bonnie Yoshida-Levine, Grossmont College
Aaron Young, University of Arizona
Melissa Zolnierz, Kansas City University
Elyssa Ebding and Geo Place, California State University, Chico
Chelsea Barron, GeoPlace, California State University, Chico
Peter Hansen, GeoPlace, California State University, Chico