Paleoanthropology & Fossil Hominids

What subject headings are used for works on paleoanthropology and fossil hominids?

The Library of Congress uses the heading Paleoanthropology for general works in this subject area; this heading may be subdivided geographically (e.g. Paleoanthropology — Indonesia). Broader and related terms that may be useful in searching for works in this subject area include:

  • Anthropology, Prehistoric [may subdivide geographically]
  • Human beings – Origin [not subdivided geographically]
  • Human evolution [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Human remains (Archaeology) [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Monogenism and polygenism [not subdivided geographically]
  • Paleoanthropologists [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Paleontological excavations [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Paleontology [may subdivide geographically]
  • Physical anthropology [may subdivide geographically]
  • Physical anthropologists [may subdivide geographically]
  • Piltdown forgery [not subdivided geographically]
  • Primates — Evolution [not subdivided geographically]

General works on fossil hominids are assigned the heading Fossil hominids, which may be subdivided geographically (e.g. Fossil hominids — Africa) or topically (e.g. Fossil hominids — Craniology). General works on fossil primates are assigned the heading Primates, Fossil; general works on fossil apes are assigned the heading Apes, Fossil; general works on fossil monkeys are assigned the heading Monkeys, Fossil; and general works on New World monkeys are assigned the heading New World monkeys, Fossil. All of these headings may be subdivided geographically.
In addition, the Library of Congress has established several headings for names of specific fossil hominid discoveries and for names of fossil hominid categories at the species, genus and family taxonomic levels. Guidelines for establishing such headings are found in section H 1332 (Biological Names) of the Subject Cataloging Manual: Subject Headings. These guidelines state that common names should be preferred if they are “in popular use and unambiguous” (p. 1). Established headings for fossil hominids based on such common names include:

  • Boskop man [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Cheddar man [not subdivided geographically]
  • Cro-Magons [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Heidelberg man [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Java man [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Kennewick Man [not subdivided geographically]
  • Lucy (Prehistoric hominid) [not subdivided geographically]
  • Minnesota Man [not subdivided geographically]
  • Neanderthals [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Peking man [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Petralona man [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Rhodesian man [may be subdivided geographically]
  • Solo man [may be subdivided geographically]

In contrast, section H 1332 states that Latin taxonomic names should be preferred “when the common name reflects several levels (species, genus, family) or the term is not in general lay usage” (p. 1). Established headings for hominid fossil groups and closely related non-hominid fossil categories based on Latin taxonomic names include:

  • Ardipithecus [may subdivide geographically]
  • Ardipithecus kadabba [may subdivide geographically]
  • Australopithecines [may subdivide geographically]
  • Australopithecus afarensis [may subdivide geographically]
  • Gigantopithecus [may subdivide geographically]
  • Homo erectus [may subdivide geographically]
  • Homo ergaster [may subdivide geographically]
  • Homo habilis [may subdivide geographically]
  • Paranthropus [may subdivide geographically]
  • Proconsul (Fossil primates) [may subdivide geographically]
  • Ramapithecus [may subdivide geographically]
  • Sahelanthropus tchadensis [may subdivide geographically]
  • Sivapithecus [may subdivide geographically]
  • Zinjanthropus [may subdivide geographically]

H 1332 (p. 7) also indicates that whenever a biological name is established for a fossil animal, broader term references are to be provided to the next broader taxonomic category. So if a name for a new fossil hominid species is established, a broader term reference is added to the genus name.
If the next broader taxonomic category name has not been established, it is supposed to be established at the same time as the lower level name. So it is possible that a genus (or higher level) name may be established even though there is no work covering the genus as a whole.

Headings for fossil hominid sites are handled in two ways.

  • Sometimes they are established as geographic features, such as Olduvai Gorge (Tanzania), and sometimes as sites, such as Hadar Site (Ethiopia) or Laetoli Site (Tanzania).
  • Either of these can also be used as subdivisions under the general Fossil hominids heading, such as Fossil hominids –Tanzania – Olduvai Gorge.

However, please note that archaeological sites are rarely used as geographic subdivisions under topics that are inherently archaeological. Therefore most catalogers would not construct headings such as Fossil hominids – South Africa – Kromdraai Site.

Finally, it is important to note that the Library of Congress provides a rich set of cross-references for many fossil hominid groups. Under Neanderthals, for example, one finds the following “Used For/See From” references: Homo mousteriensis, Homo neanderthalensis, Homo primogenicus, Homo sapiens neanderthalensis, Neandertalers, Neandertals, Neanderthal race, and Neanderthalers. Such cross-references can be very useful for searchers who come across alternative terms in the literature.

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