Field School Instructors

//Field School Instructors
Field School Instructors 2018-01-31T22:18:19+00:00

Course I: ANT 304 / ANT 504 – Ecology of the Turkana Basin (Mpala Research Centre & TBI, Ileret)

Dino J. Martins
Dino J. MartinsExecutive Director, Mpala Research Centre Research Assistant Professor, Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University
Dr. Martins is a Kenyan entomologist and evolutionary ecologist. He was recently appointed as Director of the Mpala Research Center where he oversees the daily operations and is responsible for maintaining and expanding the center as the leading drylands ecological research centre in East Africa. Prior to this role, he was the Academic Field School Director for the Turkana Basin Institute. He holds a PhD from the Department of Organismic and Evolutionary Biology at Harvard University (2011). Dr. Martins also Chairs the Insect Committee of Nature Kenya.

Dr. Martins’ current scientific research is focused on the evolution and ecology of interactions between insects and plants. He looks at what drives cooperation between insects and plants mainly between flowers and their pollinators as well as between ants and plants. Dr. Martins’ current research includes work with farmers in relation to bees and pesticides and improving pollinator awareness and conservation, general studies of bee evolution and ecology in East Africa, hawkmoth and butterfly pollination, co-evolution and the links between biodiversity and landscape-level processes. He has also begun working on the biology vectors and adaptation to climate and environmental changes in the Turkana Basin.

Dr. Martins has published widely in scientific, natural history, and environmental magazines including: the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society, the International Journal of Tropical Insect Science, Nature East Africa, the East Africa Natural History Society Bulletin, Swara, Nature Net, Ecoforum, and the Journal of the East African Wildlife Society. His work has been featured in the Smithsonian magazine, the Guardian, TED, the BBC as well as in National Geographic.

Amongst his awards and fellowships are the Ashford Fellowship in the Natural Sciences, GSAS, Harvard University, a Smithsonian Institution SIWC – MRC Fellowship (2004), and 2002 & 2003 Peter Jenkins Award for Excellence in African Environmental Journalism. In 2009 he won the Whitley Award, for his work on pollinators in East Africa. He was named one of National Geographic’s ‘Emerging Explorers’ in 2011. Dr Martins was recently elected as a Fellow of the Linnean Society of London and an honorary life member of the Kenya Horticultural Society. Earlier this year he was awarded the Whitley Gold Award by HRH Princess Anne in London in recognition for his on-going work on the conservation of pollinators and work in public awareness and education on biodiversity.

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Course II: GEO 303 / GEO 504 – Geology of the Turkana Basin (TBI, Ileret)

Craig S. Feibel
Craig S. FeibelChair, Dept of Anthropology, Professor of Geology & Anthropology, Rutgers University
Dr. Feibel received his B.A. at Dartmouth College, his M.S. at Iowa State University and his Ph.D. at University of Utah. His interests center on the investigation of the geological context for evolution in terrestrial ecosystems, particularly those related to hominin evolution and the later Neogene. His primary research area is the Turkana Basin of Kenya, where he’s worked for twenty-four years in association with the National Museums of Kenya. His work there involves stratigraphy, sedimentology and paleontology, working to establish a geologic framework and an environmental backdrop to the evolutionary and archaeological record for which that region is so famous. His other projects at the moment include an analysis of the stratigraphy and depositional environments of the Hadar site in Ethiopia, and a large project on the sedimentology of Gesher Benot Ya’aqov, an Acheulean site complex in the Dead Sea Rift of Israel, and an investigation of Pannonian (Miocene) lake deposits in Croatia.

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Christopher J. Lepre
Christopher J. LepreResearch Staff Assistant, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, Columbia University Instructor, Geology, Rutgers University
Dr. Lepre first travelled to Kenya as a field-school student in 1997, which led to his PhD work on the geological context of early human evolution in the Koobi Fora region of Lake Turkana. Since then, he has been involved with international research teams that have focused on interpreting the Plio-Pleistocene sedimentology and stratigraphy of the Turkana Basin, understanding the climate impacts on human origins, and determining the geological age of important fossils and archeological sites. Dr. Lepre has conducted fieldwork in Ethiopia, Senegal, Indonesia, and as an undergraduate, he studied the archaeology of pre-contact Native American sites in eastern North America. Presently, he is an instructor at the Earth and Planetary Sciences Department of Rutgers University, and the technician of the Paleomagnetics Laboratory at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.

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Bob Raynolds
Bob RaynoldsResearch Associate, Denver Museum of Nature and Science
Dr. Raynolds is a research associate at the Denver Museum of Nature and Science and an adjunct faculty member in the Colorado School of Mines Geophysics Department. He has also taught at the Center for Excellence in Geology at Pakistan’s Peshawar University and at Dartmouth College and done field work around the world.

Raynolds’s dissertation research focused on sedimentary rocks that accumulated at the foot of the Himalayas, which led him to study comparable rocks in the Denver Basin that record the uplift of the Front Range. His recent lectures focus on the impact of climate change on Colorado’s ecology and water resources of the Colorado River system.

Course III: ANP 305 / ANT 505 – Vertebrate Paleontology & Paleoecology of the Turkana Basin (TBI, Ileret)

Mikael Fortelius
Mikael ForteliusProfessor of Evolutionary Palaeontology, University of Helsinki Kristine Bonnevie Professor, Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), University of Oslo
Dr. Fortelius is Professor of Evolutionary Palaeontology at the University of Helsinki and the coordinator of the Neogene of the Old World database of fossil mammals. His research involves the evolution of Eurasian land mammals and terrestrial environments during the Neogene, ecomorphology of ungulates, developmental biology, the function and evolution of mammalian teeth, and scaling problems (changes in size with growth or as species evolve). He is an expert on indricotheres. He has authored and co-authored a number of papers in peer-reviewed international journals as well as articles on popular science and other published material.

Dr. Fortelius has a special interest in plant-eating mammals and their relationship with habitat and climate change. He is particularly fascinated by mammalian teeth, how they form, how they work, how they wear down,

and how their shapes evolve in evolutionary time. His first academic training was in biology, and his teacher in palaeontology was Björn Kurtén, who had a deeply organismic attitude to fossils. He carries with him a conviction that past organisms and ecosystems can only really be understood in relation to the living world. Even more strongly he feels that we cannot hope to understand the living world without sound and detailed knowledge of its stupendously long history. He is somewhat passionate about resolving fossil data geographically and estimating the population sizes as well as the numbers of extinct species.

He started out as a lonesome specialist on fossil rhinoceroses and pigs, but most of my later research has been collaborative. It currently includes seven main areas: deep time palaeoecology and evolution of mammal communities, especially of Eurasia during the last 24 million years; ecometrics of mammalian teeth, especially palaeodiet reconstruction; multidisciplinary fieldwork, most recently in the late Miocene (12 to 5 million years ago) of North China; exploration of modern computational methods for the analysis of large palaeontological datasets (e.g., temporal seriation and analysis of spatial patterns); palaeoclimate reconstruction and modelling; environmental controls on the spatial distribution of modern species and communities; and scaling questions, especially of mammalian teeth and sense organs. He also participates in work on developmental biology and evolution of mammalian teeth.

Since 1992, Dr. Fortelius has been the coordinator of a public database of Neogene Old World Mammals. He is also part of the MorphoBrowser project, a public database of 3D tooth shape.

He makes public appearances where he speaks about evolution, including human origins, for example at the bi-annual Science Forum in Helsinki and recently on Darwin Day in Oslo. He has also participated in the production of educational programmes and documentaries, including Walking with Beasts of the BBC and Discovery Channel.

Among other things he is also a Member of the Finnish Society of Sciences and Letters as well as the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, Chair of the National IUBS Committee of Finland, and Editor (one of many) of Evolutionary Ecology Research.

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Ellen Miller
Ellen MillerAssociate Professor, Anthropology, Wake Forest University
Dr. Ellen Miller, who earned her Ph.D. from Washington University in St. Louis, is a physical anthropologist specializing in paleoanthropology. She works on the fossil evidence for primate and human evolution, and teaches courses on human evolution, primate paleontology and skeletal biology. She conducts fieldwork on fossil primates in Africa (Egypt, Kenya) and Wyoming [2002].

Dr. Miller is part of a research project known as Origin of Rift Valley Ecosystems (ORVE). Her team works at Buluk, which is an early Miocene (ca. 17-16 Ma) fossil site located in the northeastern part of the Turkana Basin. The Buluk deposits are an extremely rich source of information about the early evolution of many African mammalian groups, including early relatives of elephants, rhinoceroses, carnivores, giraffes, pigs, and primates. Buluk is particularly well-known in paleoanthropology, because the site yields remains of both primitive Old World monkeys and apes, from a time period shortly after the divergence of the two groups but before the appearance of modern lineages. The specific aims of the Buluk project are: 1) to help develop a more complete understanding of the initial phases of Old World monkey and ape emergence; 2) to investigate the transition from archaic to modern African faunas; and 3) to contribute information from Buluk toward a more regional understanding of mammalian and primate evolution.

The occurrence of fossil mammals at Buluk was first reported in the mid-1970’s, and the initial recovery of fossil specimens was published in the mid-1980’s. However, because Buluk is so remote, the logistical supply of long term work in the area was not possible until the Turkana Basin Institute (TBI) at Ileret was built. However, now that TBI is in place, plans are underway for additional work in the area, including a summer field school that will allow us to retrieve the important fossil material, while at the same time providing a premier experiential learning opportunity for students.

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René Bobe
René BobeResearch Associate, Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford
Dr. Bobe is a Research Associate at the Institute of Cognitive and Evolutionary Anthropology at the University of Oxford. He was a member of GW’s teaching faculty until 2015, and remains a member of the Center for the Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology.

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Course IV: ANP 306 / ANT 506 – Human Evolution in the Turkana Basin (TBI, Ileret)

Matthew Borths
Matthew BorthsNSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Ohio University
Dr. Borths is a paleontologist whose research focuses on the origins and evolution of the modern African fauna. To investigate the evolution of African primates, carnivores, and large herbivores, he uses emerging techniques from phylogenetics, morphometrics, and biogeography as well as traditional comparative anatomy and geology to study biological responses to environmental change.

As a doctoral student at Stony Brook University and a TBI Fellow, Dr. Borths was particularly interested in the Paleogene fauna preserved in the Fayum Depression, Egypt where some of the earliest anthropoid primate fossils have been found. Immersion in the Paleogene gave Dr. Borths insight into the origins of the endemic Africa mammalian fauna that was the ecological starting point for the African fauna that emerged in the Neogene, which is best preserved in East Africa. Now, as an NSF Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Dr. Borths is working with Dr. Nancy Stevens in the Miocene of eastern Africa, particularly in Kenya and in Tanzania, to identify localities that offer insight into the biological and environmental factors that characterize the Paleogene-Neogene transition in Africa, a transition that shaped the emergence of the earliest hominins.

Dr. Borths is also interested in using fossils and the questions they spark to teach non-specialists about the scientific process. He is the co-creator of Past Time, a project that uses a podcast, blog, social media, and virtual classroom visits to bring fossils and paleontologists to students. He is a scientific advisor for educational publications like Zoobooks, videos through TedEd, and he is part of the advisory board for the Museum of the Environment at Ohio University.

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Bonnie Fine Jacobs
Bonnie Fine Jacobs
Louis Jacobs
Louis Jacobs
Louis Jacobs, Ph.D., is considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on dinosaurs, mosasaurs and other prehistoric creatures. He is a vertebrate paleontologist who utilizes the fossil record to answer significant questions about Earth and life history.
His fieldwork is currently focused in Angola, Antarctica, Alaska, and Mongolia. In the laboratory, his research utilizes advanced imaging and stable isotope techniques to investigate paleoenvironmental, biogeographic, and phylogenetic issues of the Mesozoic and Cenozoic eras.

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William Kimbel
William KimbelDirector, Institute of Human Origins Professor and Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment, Arizona State University
Dr. Kimbel, who moved to ASU with the Institute of Human Origins (IHO) in 1997, is Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and Director of the Institute of Human Origins. He conducts field, laboratory, and theoretical research in paleoanthropology, with primary foci on Plio-Pleistocene hominid evolution in Africa and the late Pleistocene of the Middle East.

Recent field work has taken Kimbel to the Hadar hominid site in Ethiopia, where he has codirected paleoanthropological research since 1990, and to northern Israel, where he has collaborated with Israeli colleagues on the excavation of Middle Paleolithic cave deposits. His lab-oriented interests are in the evolution of hominid skull morphology and function, variation, and systematics and the concept of the species as applied to paleoanthropological problems. Since 1989, Kimbel has been Principal Investigator or Co-Principal Investigator on eight National Science Foundation and other research grants totaling $775,000.

Kimbel was Joint Editor of Journal of Human Evolution from 2003-2008.

In the Department of Anthropology (the predecessor to the School of Human Evolution and Social Change), Kimbel served as Director of Graduate Studies from 1999-2003. In 2005, Kimbel was elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

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Marta Mirazón Lahr
Marta Mirazón LahrReader in Human Evolutionary Biology, Director of the Duckworth Lab, University of Cambridge Co-founder, Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Lahr graduated in Biology from the University of São Paulo, Brazil. She later earned a Masters and PhD in Biological Anthropology from the University of Cambridge, following which she was elected to a Junior Research Fellowship at Clare College. She was then an Assistant Professor in Genetics at the University of São Paulo, before returning to Cambridge in 1998 as a Lecturer in Biological Anthropology and Fellow of Clare College. Lahr was promoted to University Reader in Human Evolutionary Biology in 2005.

In 2001 Lahr, with co-founder Robert Foley, established the Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies (LCHES) at the University of Cambridge, with funding from the Wellcome Trust and the Leverhulme Trust. The Centre was designed to provide a home for the Duckworth Collection, and up-to-date laboratories and facilities to support research in human evolution which integrated genetics, anthropology, and other fields. Lahr was awarded the Phillip Leverhulme Prize in 2004.

Lahr’s research is in human evolution, and ranges across hominid morphology, prehistory and genetics. Her early work provided a test of the Multiregional Hypothesis of modern human origins, and underlined much of the argument in favour of regional continuity in traits between archaic and modern humans. This research expanded into a fuller consideration of modern human origin and its relationship to human diversity, published as a book in 1996 (The Evolution of Human Diversity). Her subsequent research continued to explore human diversity from a number of different approaches – genetic, ecological and in terms of life history.

She and Robert Foley were among the first to propose a ‘southern route’ for humans out of Africa, and for human diversity to be the product of multiple dispersals as well as local adaptation. She has led field projects in the Amazon, the Solomon Islands, the Central Sahara and Kenya, the last two focusing on issues to do with the origins and dispersals of modern humans in Africa.

Lahr is currently the director of In-Africa, an ERC funded research project examining the role of east Africa in modern human origins and was recently interviewed alongside Richard and Meave Leakey as part of the documentary ‘Bones of Turkana’, a National Geographic Special about palaeoanthropology and human evolution in the Turkana Basin, Kenya.

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Fredrick Kyalo Manthi
Fredrick Kyalo Manthi
Fredrick grew up in Machakos, near the large urban area of Nairobi, Kenya’s capital. His father worked with British paleontologist and archaeologist Mary Leakey in the 1970s, “so he used to bring me lots of books on paleontology when I was in high school,” Fredrick says. “That is what created my passion for paleontology.”

Fredrick says reading about the new paleontology discoveries by Mary Leakey and her son, Richard Leakey, was very inspiring to him as a young adult. Today, Fredrick works closely with Richard, his wife Meave, and his daughter Louise Leakey at the Turkana Basin Institute.

The budding scientist earned his PhD in paleontology from the University of Cape Town in Cape Town, South Africa, before returning home to Kenya.

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Jason Lewis
Jason LewisAssistant Director of TBI; Research Assistant Professor, Stony Brook University; Director of the TBI Origins Summer Field Schools
Dr. Jason Lewis is a researcher who studies human evolution, archaeology and physical anthropology. He is originally from Pennsylvania and attended the now infamous Dover Area High School, which in 2005-2006 was embroiled in a very important intelligent design/evolution court case. He went on to receive his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Pennsylvania in 2004 and his PhD at Stanford University in 2011. He is a Research Associate Professor and Assistant Director of TBI, and a lecturer in Stony Brook’s Department of Anthropology. He previously served a 3 year appointment as a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Rutgers University. Jason’s research deals with the evidence of human behavioral and morphological evolution through the study of hominin and other mammal fossils. He is co-director, with Dr. Sonia Harmand, of the West Turkana Archaeological Project, which is reconstructing the activities of the earliest stone-tool makers in West Turkana’s ancient landscapes. He is also a collaborator with the Koobi Fora Research Project, led by Meave and Louise Leakey. Dr. Lewis directs and teaches on the Origins Summer Field School, and often teaches the Human Evolution module of the Origins Semester Abroad program.
Matthew Skinner
Matthew SkinnerSenior Lecturer in Evolutionary Anthropology, University of Kent, U.K.
Dr. Skinner is a paleoanthropologist whose research focuses on the analysis of teeth and bones to answer questions about the growth and development, diet, taxonomy and evolutionary history of living and extinct primates, including fossil hominins. Specifically, he is interested in taxonomic diversity and evolutionary history of humans and apes, dental tissue development in the present and past, and form/function relationships in the primate skeleton. Dr. Skinner received his Ph.D. in 2008 from George Washington University.
Bernard Wood
Bernard Wood
In 1970 I graduated in medicine and surgery from The University of London and after briefly practicing as a clinician I was appointed Lecturer in Anatomy at The Middlesex Hospital Medical School. It was my intention to use this post, and a similar one at the The Charing Cross Hospital Medical School, to study for the first part of the Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons.
However, my plans for a surgical career were put on hold in 1972 when I was invited by Richard Leakey to become a member of what later became known as the Koobi Fora Research Project. I was one of three anatomists (Michael Day and Alan Walker were the others) charged with describing the hominin fossils recovered from East Rudolf. The majority of the fossil remains were from the skull and dentition, but for various reasons the three of us would each have preferred to work on the postcranial fossils. Richard Leakey brought us together in his hotel room in New York to try to resolve this impasse, but we all stuck to our guns. Not a little frustrated, Richard went into the bathroom then emerged having broken three matches into different lengths. He told us that the choice of region and/or topic would be decided by the length of the match he then invited us to draw. Mine was the shortest match, so I had no choice but to work on the cranial remains. This task, which involved determining how many taxa were represented among the hominin cranial fossils, led to my interest in patterns of intra- versus interspecific variation. Thus the topic of my PhD (The University of London, 1975) was sexual dimorphism in the skeleton of higher primates (14). Richard Leakey’s act of generosity towards a young scholar proved to be a major influence on my career.
My involvement in the analysis of the fossil hominins from Koobi Fora continued to influence my choice of research topics. Once it became apparent that more than one lineage was being sampled at Koobi Fora, Andrew Chamberlain and I published a cladistic analysis of early hominin phylogeny (62). Several other cladistic analyses followed, including an examination of monophyly in Paranthropus (68), and thus began an interest in the role of homoplasy in hominin evolution.

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Course V: ANT 307 / ANT 507 – Archaeology of the Turkana Basin (TBI, Turkwel)

Alison S. Brooks
Alison S. BrooksProfessor of Anthropology and International Affairs, The George Washington University Director, Center for the Advanced Study of Hominid Paleobiology
Dr. Brooks joined The George Washington University in 1972, and has been Professor of Anthropology since 1988. She received her Ph.D. in Anthropology from Harvard University in 1979. She also serves as Research Associate in Anthropology at the Smithsonian Institution, and is a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Professor Brooks is actively involved in the training of scientists and museum personnel from African countries, and in the development and implementation of heritage policy in Africa. She edits a bulletin for teachers, entitled AnthroNotes, that is distributed three times a year to several hundred individuals and institutions interested in anthropological perspectives on current issues. She has led research projects in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Sweden, France, China, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia and Kenya.

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Sonia F. Harmand
Sonia F. HarmandAssociate Professor, Anthropology, Stony Brook University Research Scientist, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France
Dr. Harmand is currently Associate Professor in Archaeology at Stony Brook University and co-Director of the West Turkana Archaeological Project (WTAP) along with her husband Dr. Lewis. Dr. Harmand is an expert in Early Stone Age archaeology and the evolution of stone tool making as far back as 3.3 million years. She studies the skill level (manipulative and cognitive capacities) for tool-making at sites between 3.3 and 0.7 million years old. Her research program revolves around the central theme of how, when and why did stone tool manufacture and use originate among hominins.

Since 1998, she has focused her research on reconstructing the genesis of hominin technology, a period for which the archaeological record is meager. In 2011, her annual field expedition in northern Kenya, west of Turkana Basin, yielded the earliest archaeological site known, dated at 3.3 million years. This unique discovery has profound implications for understanding the emergence and the first evolutionary steps of a new and unique behaviour among primates: the making of stone tools. These early tools likely represent a transitional phase in the hominin behavioural repertoire between the pounding-oriented technique chimpanzees use when engaged in nut cracking and the more advanced flaking-oriented knapping of later Oldowan tool makers. They suggest that the earliest stone knapping develop naturally from pre-existing bashing behaviors and generate new hypotheses about the adaptive roles tool-making and use have played for the earliest tool makers. This discovery could lead to the hypothesis that stone cutting-tool production originated in patterns of stone tool use likely to have been practiced by the last common ancestor of panins and humans, more than 6 million years ago.

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Fred Grine
Fred Grine
Dr. Hildebrand’s research examines how prehistoric hunter-gatherers adopted farming and herding, and the ways in which this economic reorientation fostered changes in social organization. She gives special emphasis to the causes and processes of plant domestication, and the spread of pastoral livelihoods.

Dr. Hildebrand has conducted several different projects using diverse data sources. Her PhD fieldwork used ethnobotanical and ethnoarchaeological methods to develop models of domestication for southwest Ethiopian crops. Her postdoctoral fieldwork tested these models via survey and excavation of rockshelters in southern and southwest Ethiopia. She also excavated at a large granary complex on Sai Island in northern Sudan, tracing early storage of domestic plants there c. 4000 years ago.

Since 2007, Dr. Hildebrand has conducted fieldwork on Holocene archaeology west of Lake Turkana, and directed the multidisciplinary Later Prehistory of West Turkana (LPWT) research team. One focus of LPWT excavations is megalithic pillar sites, whose massive basalt columns, extended elliptical platforms, and adjacent stone circles and cairns suggest they served special ceremonial purposes. LPWT research has shown these pillar sites were built 4200 years ago, just as herding spread into the area, and long before farming was practiced. At the same time people began making a new kind of pottery, the beautifully decorated “Nderit Ware.” Thus, major social changes accompanied the economic reorientation from near-sedentary hunting/gathering/herding by Turkana’s lakeshore to a more mobile pastoral economy. Current LPWT research is exploring artifactual variation between four different pillar sites that used at roughly the same time, but possibly for different ritual purposes or by distinct groups of people. Future research will examine habitation sites, where Kenya’s earliest herders made their day-to-day lives.

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Elisabeth Hildebrand
Elisabeth HildebrandAssociate Professor, Anthropology, Stony Brook University
Dr. Hildebrand’s research examines how prehistoric hunter-gatherers adopted farming and herding, and the ways in which this economic reorientation fostered changes in social organization. She gives special emphasis to the causes and processes of plant domestication, and the spread of pastoral livelihoods.

Dr. Hildebrand has conducted several different projects using diverse data sources. Her PhD fieldwork used ethnobotanical and ethnoarchaeological methods to develop models of domestication for southwest Ethiopian crops. Her postdoctoral fieldwork tested these models via survey and excavation of rockshelters in southern and southwest Ethiopia. She also excavated at a large granary complex on Sai Island in northern Sudan, tracing early storage of domestic plants there c. 4000 years ago.

Since 2007, Dr. Hildebrand has conducted fieldwork on Holocene archaeology west of Lake Turkana, and directed the multidisciplinary Later Prehistory of West Turkana (LPWT) research team. One focus of LPWT excavations is megalithic pillar sites, whose massive basalt columns, extended elliptical platforms, and adjacent stone circles and cairns suggest they served special ceremonial purposes. LPWT research has shown these pillar sites were built 4200 years ago, just as herding spread into the area, and long before farming was practiced. At the same time people began making a new kind of pottery, the beautifully decorated “Nderit Ware.” Thus, major social changes accompanied the economic reorientation from near-sedentary hunting/gathering/herding by Turkana’s lakeshore to a more mobile pastoral economy. Current LPWT research is exploring artifactual variation between four different pillar sites that used at roughly the same time, but possibly for different ritual purposes or by distinct groups of people. Future research will examine habitation sites, where Kenya’s earliest herders made their day-to-day lives.

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Hélène Roche
Hélène RocheAssociate Professor, Anthropology, Stony Brook University Research Scientist, Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS), France
Directeur de recherche at the CNRS, Hélène Roche, is head of the Mission Préhistorique Française au Kenya and co-P.I. for the West Turkana Archaeological Project (WTAP), which goal is to document and interpret behavioral evolution of Early Hominids. Her field work is located in East Africa (mainly in Kenya) and her research activities are focused on Early Paleolithic and on the evolution of lithic technology, from its late Pliocene beginnings until the end of the Acheulean. Her approach of Early Hominids (Australopithecines and Early Homo) technical activities follows a cognitive trend : evaluation of skill, assement of savoir-faire variability, etc. In West Turkana (Kenya), these technical activities are put back in a well-defined chronological and paleoenvironmental frame, in order to evaluate the impact of global and regional climatic changes on biological and cultural evolution.

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