Darwin’s Hunch – Science, Race and the Search for Human Origins
The book follows the colonial practice in Europe, the US and South Africa of collecting human skeletons and cataloguing them into racial types, in the hope that they would provide clues to human evolution. Kuljian sheds light on how, during apartheid, the concept of racial classification mirrored the way in which many scientists thought about race and human evolution. In more recent years, the field has been shaped by a more open and diverse approach, and more women and African scientists are entering the field. Research continues and new information is gathered all the time. Darwin’s Hunch also examines current developments in the search for human origins, and uncovers stories that shed new light on the past.
There is, broad agreement in the scientific world today that all humans share common origins in Africa, but when Charles Darwin first suggested it in 1871, few European scientists took his theory seriously. When the Taung child skull was found in South Africa in 1924, Raymond Dart supported Darwin’s theory, but it did little to shift scientific opinion. In the 1980s, when genetics research concluded that all living humans can trace their maternal ancestry back to Africa 200 000 years ago, many international scientists were slow to accept this claim. Scientists, and their research, are often shaped by the prevailing social and political context at the time. Kuljian explores this trend in South Africa and provides fresh insight on the search for human origins – in the fields of palaeoanthropology and genetics – over the past century.