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Department of Archaeology


Traumatic death affects our daily life, but how did traumatic mortality affect human behaviour from an evolutionary perspective? TRAUMOBITA aims to understand how traumatic mortality among prehistoric humans shaped our behaviour during the Late Pleistocene to the Middle Holocene. Confirming that how we died had an enormous influence on our ancestors and represents an enormous change in how we understand human societies. Traumatic mortality has an enormous influence among non-human primate social life and environmental adaptations, but not much effort has been dedicated to the study of how such deaths affected the behavioural development of modern humans. Identifying and understanding how humans died is essential for determining the role of violence in shaping our behaviour and, it seems, an equally important factor among our primate relatives. The goal here is to study these behavioural adaptations on the basis of two analytical sections. The first will comprise analysis of human fossils from different key sites from Lake Turkana (Africa): the region is known as the cradle of humankind and the archaeopaleontological record is an essential one for reconstructing our own evolutionary path. The second will be dedicated to integration of forensic science into taphonomic study of human fossils, in addition to development of new non-invasive methods based on virtual analysis and experimentation. The data obtained from this approach will facilitate identification and characterization of traumatic mortality in the archaeological record, in order to integrate our results into the study of past societies to determine which behavioural changes are related to traumatic mortality. Little is known on the role of traumatic mortality in human behavioural adaptations, and therefore the project will represent a major advance.


Why Lake Turkana?

West Turkana, Kenya, is one of the key regions for answering questions regarding the late evolution of human universal characters and major behavioural adaptation events of Homo sapiens, our species (1). For instance, clear evidence of inter-personal/group conflict and violence has been inferred among hunter-gatherers at Nataruk (Kenya) during the early Holocene (2). In this sense, other sites in West Turkana dating from 50,000 to 10,000 years ago (late Pleistocene to early Holocene) have enormous potential for providing insights about the behavioural context of the emergence of modernity.



(1) Foley et al. (2016) Major transitions in human evolution. Phil Trans R Soc B 371: 20150229.

(2) Mirazón-Lahr et al. (2016) Inter-group violence among early Holocene hunter-gatherers of West Turkana. Nature 529: 394-398.

Team Members

Marta Mirazon-Lahr (Supervisor)

Robert Foley (Mentor)



This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie grant agreement No 895712

Project Tags

Human Evolutionary Studies
Periods of interest: 
Other Prehistory
Geographical areas: 
Research Expertise / Fields of study: 
Human Evolution
Archaeological Theory
Biological Anthropology
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