Arizona State University SHESC


Pliny the Elder told us nearly 2000 years ago that there is “always something new out of Africa,” and how right he was! Most of the major steps in human evolution occur first in Africa–upright walking, large brain size, earliest technology, earliest symbolic behavior, and the first modern humans. In the more recent past, some of the earliest domestication of certain plants and animals occurred in Africa as people shifted from foraging to farming and societies became increasingly complex. Some of the earliest state-level societies developed in modern-day Egypt and Sudan. While being early has inherent interest, the key question and one of the great general questions is “why has Africa consistently been such a potent center of force for human evolution and social change?”

Today, ASU faculty members are among those engaged in finding “something new” in Africa. Paleoanthroplogists and primatologists at ASU focus on human evolution and non-human primate communities in Africa, while ASU archaeologists and bioarchaeologists investigate the origins of modern humans, the Neolithic, and complex societies. Field and research projects in Africa include Brenda Baker’s Fourth Cataract Archaeological Project in northern Sudan and her bioarchaeological work with the University of Pennsylvania Museum, Yale University, NYU Institute of Fine Arts Expedition to Abydos, Egypt; Curtis Marean’s research into the climatic and environmental context for modern human origins in South Africa; Leanne Nash’s research on the evolution of primate sociality focusing on bushbabies in East and South Africa and nocturnal lemurs in Madagascar; Gary Schwartz’s research in South Africa; IHO projects at Hadar, Ethiopia, where Lucy was discovered by Donald Johanson and ASU’s Paleoanthropology Field School is directed by Kaye Reed and William Kimbel; Kaye Reed’s work in Morocco; and Christopher Stojanowski’s Gobero Project in the desert of Niger. Collections of African material at ASU include human skeletal remains from Gobero, Niger, Semna South, Sudan, human remains and associated artifactual material from the Fourth Cataract area in Sudan; comparative faunal collections; and fossil casts.

Key Archaeology Faculty:
Brenda Baker
Curtis Marean
Christopher Stojanowski

© 2007, School of Human Evolution & Social Change, ASU (revised 9/4/2007)