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How “Caucasoids” Got Such Big Crania and Why They Shrank: From Morton to Rushton

Leonard Lieberman
Current Anthropology
Vol. 42, No. 1 (February 2001), pp. 69-95
DOI: 10.1086/318434
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1086/318434
Page Count: 27
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How “Caucasoids” Got Such Big Crania and Why They Shrank
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Abstract

In the 19th century measurements of cranial capacity by Morton and others supported a Caucasoid > Mongoloid > Negroid hierarchy of intelligence. This continued through most of the 20th century but was challenged by a nonhierarchical view originating with Boas. Beginning in the 1980s Rushton correlated cranial and IQ measurements and presented a hierarchy with Mongoloids at the top. Each of these periods relates to its social context: the 19thcentury hierarchy paralleled the height of European world domination; the nonhierarchy of the 20th century reflected world wars, worldwide depression, and the breakup of empires; the Mongoloid > Caucasoid > Negroid hierarchy followed the economic success of several Asian nations. Mortons cranial ranking was the result of his sampling error and his acceptance of the hierarchical thinking of his time. But how is it possible for Rushton to support the M > C > N ordering while using the data of several anthropologists who have rejected racial hierarchies on empirical grounds? The answer to this question involves a critique of Rushtons use of the race concept, his aggregation of diverse populations into three traditional races, his claim to explain differences in cultural achievements on the basis of variation in brain size, and a number of other problems. The study concludes by noting that the major consequence of these hierarchies is the apparent justification for the exploitation of those at the bottom.

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