Paleoscape Modeling

Project 6 uses experimental field observation and computer simulation to develop a paleoscape model that can predict productivity of fynbos and the conditions under which it would be exploited by hominins. The outcome of these projects will be more complete empirical documentation of exactly when and under what conditions steps were made at different stages of the human career toward novel, cognitively complex behaviors tied to technological advances in hominin resource use.

Coastal Foraging Models

Project 4 uses ethnographic and experimental field data wedded to computer simulation to test the hypothesis that the high productivity of coastal habitats was critical to early modern human adaptive success in the southern African later Pleistocene, which will be examined in the field with archaeological data in Project 5.

Bone Modification Paleoscape

Project 1 uses a novel approach to the empirical study of hominin butchery—a potential sign of enhanced social learning—and other agents of bone-surface modification in the first extensive sample of middle Pliocene (3.4 Ma) fossils amassed for this purpose, through new field work in the critical but poorly known time period between 2.9 and 2.6 Ma.

Paleoecology and paleoenvironments

Drilled long-cores from five ancient East African lake beds will show how environmental change impacted availability of critical resources to human ancestors over the lat four million years. Field and lab work seek to reconstruct the ecology of fossil animal communities to provide insights on the adaptations of early hominin populations across ancient landscapes.

Evolutionary foundations of human uniqueness

In 2014, IHO began an ambitious research program funded by the John Templeton Foundation—a collaborative inquiry into the evolutionary foundations of human uniqueness. The $4.9 million, three-year grant, the largest of its type for human origins research, supported 11 linked investigations of where, when, and how unique human capacities for complex cognition, cumulative culture, and large-scale cooperation emerged.