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Department of Archaeology


Our knowledge of human evolution is limited by several factors. One is tightly linked to the nature of the fossil record, as bones of our extinct human relatives and other primate species rarely appear in archaeological and paleontological sites, and when they do, they very commonly appear in an isolated fashion and/or are highly fragmented. These factors more severely affect studies of limb bones, which have been vaguely analysed or even ignored in certain cases. However, the postcranial skeleton is particularly relevant for understanding many behavioural and social aspects in our ancestors.

The project focusses on the analysis of key postcranial skeletal adaptations during different stages of human evolution between 4Ma and 40ka in different geographical areas in East and South Africa, and Eurasia. The main objective of the project relies on the study of long bone morphology to tackle long standing questions about the origins of some of the cornerstones of humankind (e.g., bipedalism, toolmaking). For that purpose, questions related to biomechanics, modularity & integration, and ecomorphology will be addressed by exploring the link between form and function in long bones, as well as the existing morphological relationship among limbs and within different regions of specific long bones.

The study relies on cutting-edge methods to analyse the external morphology of the humeri, radii, femora and tibiae of living primates (chimpanzees, gorillas, orangutans, baboons, macaques, modern humans) and fossil hominins (Australopithecus, Paranthropus and Homo) on the basis of digitised 3D models. The project aims at combining and testing the use of geometric morphometrics, landmark-free methods, biomechanical parameters and artificial intelligent algorithms on hominin long bones with the objective of overcoming some of the difficulties resulting from the discovery of isolated, usually incomplete specimens in an increasingly complex evolutionary picture. The project is thus expected to contribute new evidence to the ongoing discussions about hominin palaeobiology, behaviour and locomotor diversity.


The British Academy

Project Lead

Project Tags

Science, Technology and Innovation
Human Evolutionary Studies
Periods of interest: 
Geographical areas: 
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Human Evolution
Computational and Quantitative Archaeology
Biological Anthropology
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