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Curtis W. Marean
Ph.D., University of California at Berkeley, 1990

SHESC Themes:Human Origins, Evolution and Diversity; Societies and Their Natural Environments

Field specializations: archaeology, human adaptation, human biology, paleoanthropology, paleoecology, zooarchaeology

Regional focus: Africa: Southern, Near East


About Research
Dr. Marean received his Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley in 1990, and is now a member of the Institute of Human Origins and School of Human Evolution & Social Change at Arizona State University. His research interests focus on the origins of modern humans, the prehistory of Africa, the study of animal bones from archaeological sites, and climates and environments of the past. In the area of the origins of modern humans, he is particularly interested in questions about foraging strategies, for example when humans became effective hunters of large antelope, and the timing and processes underlying the evolution of modern human behavior. Dr. Marean has a special interest in human occupation of grassland and coastal ecosystems, and the role people play in the form of these ecosystems.

Dr. Marean's primary methodological approach to investigating these questions is zooarchaeology, the study of animal bones, and taphonomy, the study of how bones become fossils. In particular, Dr. Marean focuses on experimental taphonomy and the replication of bone destruction processes with the goal of refining zooarchaeological methods. His work in this area has had a profound impact on zooarchaeological methodology and our understandings of Neanderthals and early modern human hunting behavior. He, along with his student Yoshiko Abe, has recently developed a novel image-analysis zooarchaeological recording system that utilizes GIS software. This approach is a substantial improvement in zooarchaeological methodology.

He is currently directing archaeological excavations, with Dr. Peter Nilssen, at Mossel Bay in South Africa. The sites are mostly large caves in the steep coastal cliffs above the Indian Ocean. These excavations are targeted at refining our understanding of the origins of modern human behavior and placing that event in its environmental context. To that end, he is a leading a team that is seeking to develop a continuous sequence of environmental change from 400,000 to 30,000 years ago. This will have implications for our understanding of modern human origins, but also will inform us on the response of terrestrial ecosystems to potential long-term climate change, and thus be directly relevant to the future of humanity in the light of future climatic shifts.

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Select Publications
C.W. Marean and Z. Assefa (2004)
"The Middle and Upper Pleistocene African Record for the Biological and Behavioral Origins of Modern Humans." In African Archaeology. A Critical Introduction, edited by Ann Stahl. Blackwell Press: New York, pp 152-180.

C. W. Marean, P. J. Nilssen, K. Brown, A. Jerardino, and D. Stynder (2004)
"Paleoanthropological investigations of Middle Stone Age sites at Pinnacle Point, Mossel Bay (South Africa): Archaeology and hominid remains from the 2000 Field Season" Journal of Paleoanthropology 2: 14-83.

C. Henshilwood and C.W. Marean (2003)
"The origin of modern human behavior: A review and critique of the models and their test implications." Current Anthropology 44:627-651.

C.W. Marean and N.E. Cleghorn (2003)
"Large mammal skeletal element transport: Applying foraging theory in a complex taphonomic system." Journal of Taphonomy 1: 15-42.

C.W. Marean, Y. Abe, P. Nilssen, and E. Stone (2001)
"Estimating the Minimum Number of Skeletal Elements (MNE) in Zooarchaeology: a Review and a New Image-analysis GIS Approach." American Antiquity 66: 333-348.

C.W. Marean, editor (2000)
The Middle Stone Age at Die Kelders Cave 1, South Africa. Published as a special issue of the Journal of Human Evolution 38, 233 pages.

C.W. Marean and Z. Assefa (1999)
"Zooarchaeological evidence for Neandertal and Early Modern Human faunal exploitation." Evolutionary Anthropology 8: 22-37.

C.W. Marean (1998)
"A critique of the evidence for scavenging by Neandertals and early modern humans: new data from Kobeh Cave (Zagros Mousterian) and Die Kelders Cave 1 Layer 10 (South African Middle Stone Age)" Journal of Human Evolution 35: 111-136.

C.W. Marean and S. Y. Kim (1998)
"The Mousterian faunal remains from Kobeh Cave: Behavioral implications for Neanderthals and early modern humans." Current Anthropology 39: S79-S114.

C.W. Marean (1997)
"Hunter-gatherer foraging strategies in tropical grasslands: Evidence from the East African Middle and Later Stone Age." Journal of Anthropological Archaeology 16: 189-225.

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Contact: Curtis W. Marean

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