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discovering the future of our past A research center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


from the director Our species, Homo sapiens, is an oddity among the life forms on this planet. Our societies are much larger and more complex than that of any other species, and our tools and artifacts are vastly more sophisticated than those made by any other creature. We humans view the world, and communicate with one other, through a symbolic lens made possible by extraordinarily complex cognition. It has been some six million years since our lineage’s split from the chimpanzee’s, yet only in the last few hundred thousand years have we spread across the planet to occupy virtually every terrestrial habitat, the culmination of an extraordinary series of evolutionary events that have no parallel elsewhere in the Earth’s biota. Understanding how and why these transformations occurred is one of the most compelling mysteries in all of science and a puzzle whose solution lies at the heart of what it means to be human. Our research is collaborative—enlisting the resources of scientists and people who, like you, are interested in moving the science of human origins forward to “discover the future of our past.”

William H. Kimbel, PhD Director, Institute of Human Origins Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment School of Human Evolution and Social Change Arizona State University

For more than 30 years, researchers of the Institute of Human Origins have been moving the science of human origins forward, leading IHO to a position of preeminence in research, public outreach, and education.

the edge of discovery Where do we come from? What are the key attributes of our biology and culture that set us apart from other species? How does the deep past inform us about our complex relationship to a changeable planet? In the field and in the lab, scientists at the Institute of Human Origins (IHO) are closing in on answers to these and other questions about our past. The goal of human origins research is to understand the natural processes by which we became human. It is a broad, transdisciplinary endeavor that unites research on the evolutionary biology, behavior, and culture of our extinct ancestors and living populations of humans and our primate cousins. The Institute of Human Origins has attracted engaged, high-achieving scientists working on key questions across an array of perspectives in time periods that represent more than six million years of human evolutionary history.

IHO researchers have been searching for clues to human origins in the hills of Hadar, Ethiopia, since the 1970s, building on Founding Director Donald Johanson’s discovery of the fossil bones of “Lucy,” the 3.2-million-year-old skeleton of Australopithecus afarensis.

we invite you to share in this extraordinary journey

Student education in the field and in the lab are an important part of IHO’s mission. Students receive hands-on field experience and training from IHO scientists. To learn more about the field experience, read the online student blog at

a world-class research institute The Institute of Human Origins is one of the world’s leading centers for research, education, and public outreach on the scientific mission to understand what it means to be human. Now in our fourth decade of research and discovery, IHO remains at the forefront of the creation of knowledge about our origins. Our Mission Embedded within ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, IHO pursues an integrative strategy for research and discovery, bridging social, earth, and life science approaches to the most important questions concerning the course, causes, and timing of events in the human career over deep time. IHO fosters public awareness of human origins and its relevance to contemporary society through innovative outreach programs that create timely, accurate information for both education and lay communities.

Associate Director Curtis Marean is working with an international team of scientists on the southern coast of South Africa to discover new information about our origins and the broad relationships between ancient climate change and human cognitive innovation. These innovations include the strategic use of marine food resources, the heat treatment of stones to enhance flaking for toolmaking, and ultimately the first language and artistic expressions.

IHO’s international prominence flows from • A long-term commitment to strategically important field sites that pay off in streams of high-profile discoveries • Investment in cutting-edge analytical expertise and technology, making interpretation of the evidence an equal partner to discovery • A strategic vision reaching across traditional academic boundaries to create novel solutions to pressing and newly emerging scientific questions IHO researchers are teaching faculty in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change where they mentor and inspire undergraduate and graduate students who push the science of human origins forward in new and exciting ways.

investigating key questions The Institute of Human Origins’ core strength lies in ďŹ eld and lab research on key questions and time periods in the emergence of humankind. IHO Research Focus The Fossil Record of Early Human Evolution Ongoing IHO field work at Hadar and Ledi-Geraru, Ethiopia, as well as other African sites, addresses the evolution and ecology of Australopithecus (3.4 to 3.0 million years ago) and the origin of Homo and stone-tool making (2.8 to 2.3 million years ago). Emergence of Modern Humans in Africa A major transdisciplinary project on the south coast of South Africa is producing an unprecedentedly complete record of late Pleistocene (120,000 to 60,000 years ago) environmental and archaeological data bearing on the origin and early behavioral evolution of modern humans.

Critical analysis is a key component of our scientists’ work. IHO researcher Gary Schwartz explores changes in the form and structure of modern and fossil teeth of human ancestors and primates. The rate at which teeth grow is closely linked to important biological variables, such as brain size, gestation length, and longevity. Schwartz views thin sections with a microscope, which reveals growth layers like a tree ring, or uses scanning technologies to noninvasively examine the internal structures of fossil teeth.

Frontier of Human Adaptations and Life-ways Cutting-edge analytical studies of social, ecological, and life-history characteristics in living primates and humans link the present to fossil and archaeological records and help create comprehensive explanations for unique human adaptations such as large-scale cooperation and socially transmitted technology. Paleoecology and Paleoenvironments Drilled long-cores from ancient East African lake beds will show how environmental change impacted availability of critical resources to human ancestors over the last 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.

strategically moving science forward We envision IHO as the preeminent research organization in the design of novel connections among perspectives, methodologies, and tools bearing on human origins science. IHO is progressing on an ambitious plan to expand its research mission and build on the strengths of its core initiatives to bridge traditional disciplines.

Evolutionary Foundations of Human Uniqueness What attributes make our species unique, and how did they arise through evolutionary and cultural proceses?

years, such as bipedal locomotion, large brains, toolmaking, hunting, language, art, and social institutions. DNA and Human Origins What are the genetic underpinnings of our complex culture and social institutions? Stimulated by an ASU investment, IHO scientists have inaugurated

The origin of human cognition spans biological and cultural realms and offers a path to unite insights from the fossil and archaeological records with lessons from research on culture, cognition, and contemporary human hunter-gatherers and other primates. The goal is to explain the processes leading to the emergence of the uniquely human attributes of technology, social learning, cooperation, and language and assess their indelible impacts on the planet.

a program of research that spans ancient DNA of modern human origins in sub-Sarahan Africa to the population genetics of primate societies. The IHO team is using ancient DNA to understand the seasonal migration patterns of large game that were hunted by late Pleistocene humans in coastal southern Africa, while genetic studies of chimpanzees and baboons are testing ideas about the relationship of genes to social behavior, migration, and intergroup aggression in natural populations of our nearest relatives.

Human Adaptations to a Changeable Planet How do records of the deep past inform us about our species’ complex relationship to changing global and local environments? To comprehensively address the central issues in human evolution, there must be broad integration of social and earth science research on how human populations adapt to changes in environments and landscapes—the key to understanding major evolutionary and cultural innovations spanning at least six million

IHO research is underway to understand the development of human sociality and cooperation from the complimentary perspectives of primate life-history, human sociality, and largeand small-scale cooperation in traditional human societies. Additions of new faculty to the IHO team have augmented our expertise in these areas.

IHO researchers Kaye Reed and Chris Campisano are leaders in a multinational team that has extracted drilled long-cores of continuous, high-resolution paleoenvironmental records from five ancient lake beds in Kenya and Ethiopia. Researchers are analyzing samples spanning the last four million years of human evolution to understand how changing environments reflected the pathways of human evolution, which can help us understand why and how our distant ancestors evolved.

how are humans unique? A grant from the John Templeton Foundation on the “Evolutionary Foundations of Human Uniqueness” is allowing IHO scientists to undertake a multifaceted, transdisciplinary collaborative research project that seeks to increase our understanding of the process of “how we became human.” The $4.9 million, three-year grant, the largest of its type for human origins research, supports 11 linked projects with a focus on where, when, and how unique human capacities for cognition, culture, and cooperation emerged. Together, they will help explain how humans have evolved in environmental, technological, and social contexts to become the dominant species on Earth. Led by IHO Director William Kimbel, the projects are directed by nine IHO scientists in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change. More than 50 external collaborators, postdoctoral scholars, and ASU graduate students are involved in the projects, which span field work, analytical studies, and theoretical research in Africa, Europe, South America, Oceania, and the United States. Included in the grant are funds for a state-of-the-art, 2- and 3-D imaging lab for analysis of fossils and artifacts, which is a permanent facility at ASU, open to other researchers on campus and to non-ASU scientists and students collaborating with IHO researchers on longer-term projects. The grant also supports K-12 educational outreach in human origins in developing a new website, “Ask An Anthropologist,” building on ASU’s exemplary “Ask A Biologist” platform and upgrades to IHO’s Webby-award winning

The Projects Project 1 Bone Modification Paleoscape: The Pliocene paleoscape context of the origins of technology Project 2 Origins of Technology: Seeking the origins of technology in rare late Pliocene sediments in eastern Africa Project 3 Cognition in Marginal Habitats: The challenge of marginal habitats in understanding complex behavior in the Pleistocene Project 4 Coastal Foraging Models: Coastal foraging, social behavior, and modern human dispersal Project 5 Origins of Complex Cognition: Discovering the evidence for the beginnings of complex cognition Project 6 Paleoscape Modeling: Modeling the paleoscape where modern human cognition evolved Project 7 Evolution of Complex Technology: Cultural evolution of technology in traditional societies Project 8 Life History Evolution: The evolution of human life histories and comparative studies of dental development Project 9 Human Social Preferences: The development of altruistic social preferences Project 10 Cultural Norms and Cooperation: Norms, third-party enforcement, and the evolution of human cooperation Project 11 Collective Action: Empirical study of collective action among traditional societies

IHO Administration

Research Scientists

an integrated network of scientists Donald Johanson, PhD Founding Director and Virginia M. Ullman Chair in Human Origins African early hominins (Ethiopia)

Curtis Marean, PhD Associate Director and Foundation Professor Zooarchaeology, origins of modern human behavior (South Africa)

Rob Boyd, PhD Research Affiliate Origins Professor Cultural evolution, evolutionary dynamics of human populations (Fiji)

Chris Campisano, PhD Research Associate Assistant Professor Earth sciences of paleoanthropological sites, paleoecology (Ethiopia, Kenya)

Erich Fisher, PhD Assistant Research Scientist Archaeoinformatics, modern human origins (South Africa)

Kim Hill, PhD Research Associate Professor Hunter-gatherer ecology, evolution of human sociality (Philippines, South America)

Kevin Langergraber, PhD Research Affiliate Assistant Professor Chimpanzee molecular and behavioral ecology, conservation genetics (Uganda)

Sarah Mathew, PhD Research Affiliate Assistant Professor Evolution of cooperation, origins of morality, cultural evolution, warfare (Kenya)

Charles Perreault, PhD Research Affiliate Assistant Professor Origins social learning, macroscale patterns of cultural evolution, prehistory of Asia (China, Mongolia)

Kaye Reed, PhD Research Associate President’s Professor Primate community ecology, paleoecology (Ethiopia, Morocco, South Africa)

Gary Schwartz, PhD Research Associate Associate Professor Primate life-history evolution, growth, and development (South Africa)

Joan Silk, PhD Research Affiliate Professor Primate behavioral ecology, evolution and sociality (Fiji, Kenya)

Anne Stone, PhD Research Affiliate Professor Human and nonhuman primate genetics, ancient DNA

Research Scientists

Research Scientists

William Kimbel, PhD Director and Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Natural History and the Environment African early hominins, Neandertals (Ethiopia, Israel)

Ian Gilby, PhD Research Affiliate Assistant Professor Biological roots of human cooperation, evolution of cooperation in primates, chimpanzee behavioral ecology (Tanzania, Uganda)

a global mission of education + outreach International Affiliated Research Scientists

A Digital Ecosystem of Educational Resources

The Institute of Human Origins extends its scientific research through a network of International Research Affiliates, which provides an intellectually potent source of perspectives, expertise, and tools on the leading edge of research.

The Institute of Human Origins is committed to science education and public understanding of the science of human origins through a robust outreach program that employs digital resources for the broadest reach possible.

Zeresenay Alemseged, PhD Juan Luis Arsuaga, PhD Erella Hovers, PhD Panagiotis Karkanas, PhD Jay Kelley, PhD Yoel Rak, PhD Carol Ward, PhD Launched in 2016 and created with funding from the John Templeton Foundation grant, this website is an offshoot of ASU’s successful AskABiologist web resource for the K-12 audience. In a fun and engaging digital environment, this website aims to guide students and teachers into the science of human origins.

California Academy of Sciences University of Complutense of Madrid The Hebrew University of Jerusalem American School of Classical Studies in Athens Arizona State University Visiting Researcher Tel Aviv University University of Missouri Created in 2000 with funding from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, IHO’s innovative, “Webby” award-winning website is an online resource for students, teachers, and the general public that features videos, an interactive timeline of the human lineage, and news stories from breaking human origins science. This website is the portal into all academic and scientific activities of IHO at ASU and features the latest information on IHO science, publications, news, and events.

Training the Next Generation of Scientists IHO scientists, faculty members of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, have mentored 21 doctoral students (through 2015) and currently supervise more than 25 graduate students who are pursuing advanced degrees in human origins science at ASU. IHO competes for the top graduate students in the country through the IHO graduate fellowships and research funding through the Elizabeth H. Harmon Research Endowment and the Donald C. Johanson Paleoanthropology Research Endowment (for undergraduate and graduate students).

IHO app for iOS and Android Moving into the mobile environment is important in today’s fast-paced world. IHO has a mobile app to learn more about IHO on the go. Social Media IHO extends its network of supporters through Facebook (Lucy and ASU Institute of Human Origins), Twitter (@HumanOriginsASU and @LucyASUIHO), and an online blog, Notes from the Field, written by IHO graduate students (

a model for public/private partnership

IHO Research Council Executive Board

IHO Research Council and Executive Board The Institute of Human Origins is a model for a strong public/private partnership between ASU and the IHO Research Council that is key to our success and a critical aspect of our long-term vision. The IHO Research Council comprises individuals from business, education, and scientific communities who provide strategic guidance and financial support for operations, research, and outreach and, through its broad network, provides an outlet for IHO’s diverse public programs. The Research Council is led by an Executive Board, which plays a vital role in strategic planning, development, and financial oversight. For information on how to join the search for human origins through the Research Council, contact IHO Director William Kimbel ( or 480.727.6582).

Alexander Barbanell Colleen Cookson Robert Cookson David Deniger John Ellerman Alejandra M. Escandon Jay Greene Thomas F. Hill (Founding Chairman) Donald C. Johanson, PhD Thomas P. Jones III Patrick Kenney, PhD (ex-officio) Bobby Ellen Kimbel, PhD William H. Kimbel, PhD David H. Koch Ross Leventhal Curtis W. Marean, PhD Harry A. Papp (Treasurer) Herb Roskind Laura Roskind Janet D. Sands Edgar L. Sands Peter Saucier Carol Saucier Bruce W. Schnitzer (Chairman) Ridge Smidt Ian Tattersall, PhD Joan Travis Sander van der Leeuw, PhD

New York, New York Phoenix, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Dallas, Texas Paradise Valley, Arizona Mexico City, Mexico St. Helena, California New York, New York San Francisco, California Berkeley, California Tempe, Arizona Philadelphia, Pennsylvania Phoenix, Arizona New York, New York Seattle, Washington Mesa, Arizona Phoenix, Arizona Scottsdale, Arizona Scottsdale, Arizona Flagstaff, Arizona Flagstaff, Arizona Baltimore, Maryland Baltimore, Maryland New York, New York Encinitas, California New York, New York Los Angeles, California Phoenix, Arizona

Members-At-Large Charles Brickman Martin Dobelle Molly Dobelle Carolyn Lee (Susie) Marston Rand Morimoto Arthur L. Pearce II

Scottsdale, Arizona New York, New York New York, New York Paradise Valley, Arizona Alamo, California Scottsdale, Arizona

exploring time expeditions Travel and Learn! IHO’s travel program is different from any other travel experience. This is not just travel—it is immersion in the span of human history, hosted by IHO and ASU scientists who add a rich understanding of your travel destination. Our travel adventures are designed for fun, excitement, and comfort and take advantage of the best accommodations and sailing vessels available in the industry. We partner with top travel providers who are specialists in exotic areas of the world. Plus, tour leaders, including Bill Kimbel and Don Johanson, have been accompanying our travelers since the 1980s to Ethiopia, France, the Galápagos Islands, Indonesia, Israel, Madagascar, South Africa, and Tanzania, as well as being seasoned world travelers themselves. From years of experience, we understand the balance between a great travel experience and a rich learning program. In fact, our trips are so unique and engaging that we have many satisfied repeat travelers. More information at

Past Trips Ethiopia: The Land of “Lucy” The Awash Valley of Hadar, Modern Addis Ababa, and the Timkat Festival Prehistoric Cave Art: The Bordeaux Region of France Hidden Art of Early Humans: Neandertals, Early Modern Humans, and Their Places of Expression Galápagos Islands: Darwin’s Enchanted Islands Live Darwin’s Journey of Discovery Through Nature’s Abundant Diversity Indonesia: Exploring the Human Journey Java Man, Ancient Temples, and Orangutans Israel: Ancient Lives, Sacred Sites, and Modern Cities Prehistoric caves, fossil collections, and the best of Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, and Nazareth Madagascar and the Seychelles: Treasures of the Indian Ocean Born of Splendid Isolation—Lemurs and Biodiversity South Africa: Ancient Voices and Wildlife Reserves Cave Dwellings of Early Modern Humans and the Best of Luxury Safari Travel Tanzania: Human Origins and the Great Migration A Classic Safari Through the “Cradle of Mankind” and in the Shadow of Kilimanjaro

from the founding director Support the Institute of Human Origins The Institute of Human Origins invites you to share in the excitement of discovery, the pursuit of new knowledge, and the public discussion of the enduring puzzle of how we “became human.” The scientific study of how and where humans developed on Earth has never been more vibrant than today. We are seeking visionary partners to join our mission to advance the science of human origins and support the ongoing challenges of our field and laboratory research. An investment in IHO helps to fund student scholarships, support research in laboratories and field sites, and meet the growing needs of our researchers and students. Gifts can be made in many different ways and to many different areas. Your gift can be directed to support: • Field research and research infrastructure • Student scholarships and fellowships, including • Elizabeth H. Harmon Research Endowment • Donald C. Johanson Paleoanthropology Research Endowment • IHO Research Fellowship • Educational outreach, including or • Operations to support the activities of IHO • A personal, named endowment To learn more about how to invest in the important work of IHO, contact me at or 480.727.6580. Please join us in the search!

Donald C. Johanson, PhD Founding Director Virginia M. Ullman Chair in Human Origins

participate in the journey to discover our past

A research center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Communications and External Relations Julie Russ, Assistant Director

For more information or questions, contact William Kimbel, PhD, Director wkimbel.iho 480.727.6580 Institute of Human Origins Arizona State University PO Box 874101 Tempe, AZ 85287-4101

Photo credits: Carol Beckwith; David Brill; Jennifer Clark, Human Origins Program, Smithsonian Institution; Angela Fisher; Erich Fisher; Donald Johanson; William Kimbel; Simen Oestmo; John Reader; Benjamin Reed; Julie Russ; SACP4; Joan Silk; Jayne Wilkins All funds will be deposited with the ASU Foundation for a New American University, a separate nonprofit organization that exists to support ASU. Gifts in support of ASU are subject to foundation policies and fees. Your payment may be considered a charitable contribution. Please consult your tax advisor regarding the deductibility of charitable contributions. Š 2016 Arizona Board of Regents on behalf of the Institute of Human Origins, Arizona State University.

ASU Institute of Human Origins Annual Report 2016  

The ASU Institute of Human Origins invites you to discover your origins—dig into our research, explore our scientists' interests, and uncove...

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