The great diversity of the human race is the result of the many different processes that have taken place through the ages. The first race was the hunter-gatherer peoples, who migrated south and north from Africa roughly 10,000 years ago. The population growth of these groups was so heavy that their genetic diversity was much greater than that of our descendants (who have been isolated from their modern-day African ancestors for millions of years). The next two groups were the agriculturalists (who lived on the Arabian Peninsula and Anatolia) and the hunter-gatherers (whose migrations first began as far back as 100,000 years ago). However, the hunter-gatherers and the agriculturalists have been separated by more than 12,000 years, meaning that their genetics have not completely fused into one. The last of these major human groups is the human population to populate all of the continents of the world: Homo sapiens.
So where did the term ‘anthropoid’ come from?
The modern term for the human species — ‘anthropoid’ — came into widespread use in the early 19th century when British colonial officials began to refer to East African populations as ‘Homo sapiens’, as in Homo sapiens sapiens americanus (the African American). It was often used in this context by other colonial powers, including Britain and France. But even when they adopted the term ‘anthropoid’ themselves, they tended to use a very specific meaning in the context of Africa. To illustrate, here are some examples of uses of the term as applied to East Asian populations, before the rise of the term ‘anthropoid’ in 19th century England. In 1846, England established the African Office at a British mission in Nigeria, with instructions to “purify, standardise and propagate” specimens of what they called ‘Homo erectus’. One document reported that some of the specimens were so “skeletal” that when the skeleton was examined one could see “not more than five or six toes”. However, by the 1920s, the term ‘anthropoid’ had become widely used to denote not only African populations of a similar size and body shape, but also those of Europeans who were believed to be of a very similar type to “Homo sapiens.” In a more nuanced way, when British troops entered Burma in 1945, they found that many Asian populations were “large” and “proportioned” (as compared to a European population), and that the British troops were particularly concerned by the
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