Early Hominin Ecology, Subsistence, and Cognition

Insights into the morphological, behavioral, and physiological attributes of modern humans are heavily reliant on developing historical and evolutionary perspectives for our lineage. This endeavor is not simply a matter of constructing phylogenies of hominin evolution and reconstructing a relative framework of the timing of different evolutionary innovations, but rather understanding the processes inherent in our evolutionary past. To gain this perspective, we need to situate ourselves in the adaptive landscape of our ancestors and attempt to decipher the selective pressures that led to shifts in diet, foraging strategy, and ranging patterns that ultimately resulted in tool manufacture and use and the cognitive abilities associated with cumulative culture.  Ongoing fieldwork by Dietrich Stout in East Africa examines the specific ecological context, tool use, and subsistence strategies of early hominins, linking these ideas with adaptive scenarios. An alternate approach is provided by examining aspects of modern humans in a comparative perspective and projecting back in time. Jim Rilling utilizes non-invasive functional brain imaging techniques to compare brain structure and function in monkeys, apes and humans, with the goal of identifying human brain specializations and informing our knowledge of human brain evolution.

Pursuing these goals requires highly interdisciplinary approaches, and the Anthropology Department provides a foundation for developing and integrating complex and diverse perspectives to issues integral to understanding human evolution.

Students at Emory benefit from a broad training in:

Skeletal Biology
Evolutionary Theory
Evolution of the Brain
Paleodietary and Paleoecology Studies
Comparative Primate Research
Human Biology and Physiology

Faculty in Anthropology Include:

Michelle Lampl
Jim Rilling
Dietrich Stout
Jessica Thompson