28 Prospects and Pitfalls

  • Jean-Jacques Hublin
Reference work entry


Paleoanthropology is primarily rooted in the study of fossils and the analysis of sites. Dependence on these resources leads to challenges resulting from the difficulty in gaining access to scarce, precious, and sometimes overprotected materials, and from issues of control over field sites. The development of virtual paleoanthropology can sometimes be a way to partially solve the first problem. However on some occasions, the access to and utilization of numerical data has also become an issue of dispute. In parallel, recent advances in studies focusing on microstructures, isotopic composition, and paleogenetics require direct sampling of the fossils. The trend in paleoanthropology is to integrate approaches from different scientific fields, and this is especially visible in developmental sciences, genetics, and environmental studies. In the meantime, dealing with human evolution remains a sensitive topic, subject to clear ideological and religious biases. The interest of the media and of the public in this science does not always contribute to an objective approach to the questions. Finally, among other issues, the expansion of paleoanthropology studies in developing countries must contend with the decline of a colonial mode of thinking.


Physical Anthropology Extinct Species Fossil Specimen Virtual Representation Fossil Hominid 
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  • Jean-Jacques Hublin

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