In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Genetics

  • Introduction
  • Bibliographies
  • Basic Concepts
  • Ethics
  • The Future of Genetic Anthropology

Anthropology Genetics
Omer Gokcumen
  • LAST REVIEWED: 31 July 2020
  • LAST MODIFIED: 11 January 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0068


The inherited traits that shape human variation have been a major focus of anthropologists and biologists alike. Recently, molecular genetic tools have provided a massive array of possibilities to address anthropological questions in novel, powerful ways, leading to the formation of the young and exciting field of genetic anthropology. However, application of genetic knowledge to anthropology is still in its infancy and many methodological, theoretical, institutional, and ethical issues remain to be addressed for a complete integration of genetics with anthropology. Still, over the past decades, several high-profile discoveries using genetic tools have changed the way anthropologists think about some of the fundamental questions related to human biological and cultural diversity. These include determining how genetically similar we are to our primate cousins; proving an African origin for our species; noting the myriad migrations that define the biological and ancestral variations within and between human populations; detailing the demographic impact of the transition to agriculture, and so forth. All were explored to unprecedented depths thanks to genetic tools. Also exciting has been the recent focus of genetic anthropology on local adaptations, such as resistance to disease (e.g., malaria) and the impact of technological and cultural transformation in human history on genomic variation. As our understanding of the human genome deepens and, more important, as the extent of the interplay between biology and culture is unveiled, genetic anthropology can position itself potentially to address very difficult questions about human nature, the interaction between nature and society, and human variation in general.


Genetic anthropology research is primarily published as peer-reviewed journal articles. PubMed is an extremely comprehensive bibliographic resource that includes almost all of the peer-reviewed citations that relate to biomedical research, including nearly all major genetic anthropology articles. However, it is important to note that material listed in PubMed consists overwhelmingly of journal articles and not books. A significant portion of the discussion that relates to data concerning the ethical, societal, legal, and cultural context of production and the impact of genetic anthropology is published as books or in nonbiomedical journals. This requires incorporation of bibliographic resources other than PubMed.

  • PubMed

    A free-of-charge database of journal articles curated by the US National Library of Medicine. The database includes more than twenty million citations and is the most comprehensive and most accessed database for biomedical research. Content of most of the journals that publishes genetic anthropology research is indexed in this database.

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