The dominant question for anthropology then and presently is "what does it mean to be human?"

During the 19th century and into the 20th the definition of man was that man was the took maker.  That definition no longer obtains.  We have seen otters using stones to shuck oysters and we have seen monkeys using sticks to probe insect mounds and then teaching other monkeys to do so.

Another definition of mankind that held for a while was that man was the creature that used language.  That definition is also in decline.  Many people are familiar with the story of Koko.  Koko was a female gorilla who learned American Sign Language.  Koko eventually had a working vocabulary of over 2000 words.  She stunned her keepers by initiating conversations and by raising "subjects" that she had not been introduced to such as her promise to behave peaceably when a male gorilla was introduced into her domain.

The definition of man that now seems to endure is that man is the only creature capable of symbolic thought.  Man is the only creature with a sense of time and the only one who wonders where he stands in the continuum of eternity.

Then there is the question of who is human.  You still see the error that some only refer to modern man, Homo Sapiens, as human; all other humanoid, such as Neanderthal Man being referred to as animals.  More recent research indicates that things are not so simple.  Genetic research reveals that a portion of modern men have Neanderthal "markers."  It seems that some time in the past Neanderthal Man and Homo Sapiens intermarried.  In face if you took a Neanderthal to downtown Atlanta, took him for a shave and a haircut, and outfitted him from head to toe at a good men's store, he would be indistinguishable from the other men on the street.  There is also research that seems to indicate that Homo Erectus and Homo Habilis who were thought to be extinct 750,000 and 1,000,000 years ago respectively may have still been around at the time of Neanderthal Man and modern man Homo Sapiens.

It's a great time to be an anthropologist.  In recent years in a museum in Germany an ancient skeleton of a monkey-like creature was found.  This skeleton shook the research.  The creature is much older than "Lucy" who is seen as the earliest ancestor of apes and men.  This creature who has an opposable thumb, which is seen as a major evolutionary advance, is older than Lucy who comes in as 4,000,0000 years old.

Of greater importance yet is the realization that the physical concept of race may be only 150,000 years old.  What that means is that the variety of races:  white, black, yellow, brown and red are only recent adaptions to the environment.  More sobering then is the idea that the differences between people, which are so often important and troublesome to us, are social not physical contructs.  Thus negative judgments and failures to get along are problems of our own making.