Send to

Choose Destination
Ann Hum Biol. 2014 Jul-Aug;41(4):300-11. doi: 10.3109/03014460.2014.922613.

Reticulate evolution and the human past: an anthropological perspective.

Author information

Department of Archaeology, University of York , the King's Manor, York , United Kingdom and.



The evidence is mounting that reticulate (web-like) evolution has shaped the biological histories of many macroscopic plants and animals, including non-human primates closely related to Homo sapiens, but the implications of this non-hierarchical evolution for anthropological enquiry are not yet fully understood. When they are understood, the result may be a paradigm shift in evolutionary anthropology.


This paper reviews the evidence for reticulated evolution in the non-human primates and human lineage. Then it makes the case for extrapolating this sort of patterning to Homo sapiens and other hominins and explores the implications this would have for research design, method and understandings of evolution in anthropology.


Reticulation was significant in human evolutionary history and continues to influence societies today. Anthropologists and human scientists-whether working on ancient or modern populations-thus need to consider the implications of non-hierarchic evolution, particularly where molecular clocks, mathematical models and simplifying assumptions about evolutionary processes are used. This is not just a problem for palaeoanthropology. The simple fact of different mating systems among modern human groups, for example, may demand that more attention is paid to the potential for complexity in human genetic and cultural histories.


Agency; complexity; heterarchy; hybridization; palaeoanthropology

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for Taylor & Francis
Loading ...
Support Center