Pelvic Dimensions: An Account of Studies of the Pelvis 1885-1988
360 Pages Posted: 25 Apr 2018
Date Written: December 18, 1988
This PhD thesis is an historical/analytical account of the ways in which the pelvis has been studied.
The starting point is Turner's 1885 study in which the pelvis was used as a 'thing' to demonstrate racial progressionism. The thesis continues with a detailed account of the systems of classifying pelves in obstetric studies; and studies of racial and sex differences in the pelvis as undertaken in physical anthropology.
The second part looks at the ways ideas developed from these studies were used in the formation and appeal of 'The Reproductive Dilemma' and the use of the pelvis in theories about bipedalism and human evolution.
The importance of the 'Reproductive Dilemma' in theories of human evolution can be attributed to the appealing imagery with strong narrative elements, which appear to mirror nineteenth-century theories about the recapitulation of phylogeny in ontogeny. The discussion on neoteny and retardation considers whether or not Bolk's inclusion of the pelvic form as a neotenous trait was confusing, as more recent authors have suggested.
In combining data from studies of hormones, diet and other determinants of pelvic form, it can be seen that the ideas of sex differences in pelvic bones are based more on nineteenth century social concepts of gender functions, rather than any demonstrable biological selection for parturition in the female pelvis.
An examination of the way in which the pelvis of Homo. s. neanderthalensis has been studied is a good illustration of this.
A second illustration of the argument is a study undertaken on a small sample (29) pelves from a collection of New Zealand prehistoric material.
Keywords: Gender Studies, sexual dimorphism, pelvic studies, bipedalism, neaderthal, neadertal, pelvis, sexual determinism
JEL Classification: Z00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation