Anthropology: Models of Human Biological Variation

Anthropologists devised various models to fully understand the diversity of human beings. They find biological differences as essential variables that could determine the variations from these groups of people or “race”. Here are the three basic models of classifying human beings:

Typological Model

In the 19th century, anthropologists and biologists divided the people according to their distinct geographical groups. They based it on what they saw as the regular occurrence together of selected traits. The typological approach focuses on a small number of traits which can be immediately identified. This includes skin color, body build, hair form, and stature. According to typological model, there have been “pure” unmixed races before. Its roots can be traced back to Carolus Linnaeus’ four biological subspecies of human according to geographic regions.

However, the typological model has been put to question because of its characteristic of being a false assumption. There are various characteristics that can be seen from other groups of people. Thus, the typological model fails as there is no exclusivity in traits and that most biological traits are continuous variables.

Traits are not a direct and accurate basis to tell a classification of people. The model leads to wrongly assume that the people within a group are genetically and anatomically more alike than they are like people from other groups. For instance, many Americans believed before that Africans have broad noses. However, according to DNA, most people have 99.9% identical DNA sequences. Thus, people are considered homogenous

Populational Model

During the early 1940’s, most biological anthropologists adopted the populational model with perspectives developed by population genetics. The approach focuses on the idea that a particular group of people have ancestors who exclusively mated with each other for thousands of years. Through this, people in such breeding populations are more likely to share and inherit the same characteristics.

Contrary to typological model, population approach looks first on the population of the people, before characterizing, or considering the anatomical and physiological traits.

However, the populational model may be of little help in understanding human variations today because inter-mating of different populations or group of people is very accessible now due to modernizations.

Clinal Model

The clinal approach was the most accepted model to reflect the true nature of human biological variation. The clinal approach is based on the “clines” in which genetically inherited traits most often change gradually in frequency from one geographic area to another. Gradual changes in gene frequency from one geography to another are mostly because mating with someone is usually directly connected to the distance they live from us. Basically, people whose ancestors have lived closer to ours for many generators are more likely to share genetically inherited traits than those who are far away.

However, the biological human variation cannot be explained solely by clinal model alone. Most of the variations between us are due to our distinct individual traits and being male or female. Thus, in order to fully understand the true patterns of human variations, scientists have gathered detailed data about inherited traits. DNA sequence comparisons can provide a detailed understanding of human biological diversity.