Human origins research currently receives intense interest in academic and public circles. But what does it mean to become 'human'? What kinds of humans are we searching for?
Postcolonial perspectives and efforts to decolonise archaeology and anthropology have made significant theoretical and methodological contributions in many areas, for example, public or Indigenous archaeologies. However, research relating to human origins is still overwhelmingly presented and examined as natural processes that can be described and explained in objective scientific and biological terms, despite having similar disciplinary histories and tendencies as all other areas of anthropology. We argue that it is timely to take on the challenge of reflecting on human origins from more critical perspectives. Not only does human origins research have undeniable connections to imperialist endeavours across the globe, which need to be honestly reconciled if they are not to be repeated, it also has significant contemporary implications for the relationships between diverse knowledge systems and can have substantial impacts on the identity of Indigenous people.
This project is run by Associate Professor Martin Porr and Jacqueline Matthews (postgraduate student). We initiated the project in 2014 with a session at the Theoretical Archaeology Group conference in Manchester (more about that here) and followed that up with a Wenner-Gren Foundation funded workshop held in Perth Australia in 2015 (details here). Our aim is not only to explore this topic ourselves but to bring together and encourage other researchers already working in related areas, with the hope that more critical thinking about human origins could see the mobilisation of new approaches that reconcile the complex histories of writing complex histories.