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A palaeoanthropologist argues that theories of human origins developed by archaeologists and physical anthropologists from the early nineteenth century to the present day are structurally similar to Western folk theories, and to the speculations of earlier philosophers. Reviewing a remarkable range of thinkers writing in a variety of European languages, he criticises the lack of development in theories of human origins, but concludes optimistically that the power of the scientific approach will deliver more reliable theories--but only if it is conscious of the baggage it carries over from popular discourse.
Wiktor Stoczkowski (b.1959) was trained as a prehistoric archaeologist and ethnologist and, later, as an historian of science. He is lecturer in anthropology at the Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales in Paris, is director of Groupe de recherches sur les savoirs (EHESS) and research member of Laboratoire d'anthropologie sociale. His publications include Anthropologie naive, anthropologie savante (1994), Aux origines de l'humanite: Anthologie (1996), and Des Hommes, des extraterrestres et des dieux (1999), and numerous articles.