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The use of phylogenies in anthropology


Jordan,  Fiona
Evolutionary Processes in Language and Culture, MPI for Psycholinguistics, Max Planck Society;

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Jordan, F. (2009). The use of phylogenies in anthropology. Talk presented at Classification and Evolution in Biology, Linguistics and History of Science. Dusseldorf, Germany. 2009-06-11 - 2009-06-12.

Cite as: http://hdl.handle.net/11858/00-001M-0000-0013-36AC-D
Anthropology began by comparing across cultures: the ethnographic record is the richest source of data for understanding the hows and whys of human social life. To study cultural evolution across populations, we need to account for the effect that shared ancestry may have in creating relationships and patterns in the traits we examine. Evolutionary biologists employ phylogenies as population histories, and use comparative methods to control for evolutionary history in trait evolution. Anthropologists, like biologists, are most often interested in evolutionary processes beyond "the tree", so phylogenies and comparative methods are simply another tool for the kit. I will talk briefly about some of the interesting anthropological questions that can be tackled using these methods: reconstructing ancestral states of cultural traits, testing hypotheses about cultural correlation, comparing the same processes in different language families, and investigating bio-cultural co-evolution.