Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America

About the PNAS Member Editor
Name Brooks, Alison S.
Location The George Washington University
Primary Field Anthropology
 Research Interests
I am an anthropologist interested in the origins of our species Homo sapiens. I have conducted archaeological research in France, the Near East, China and eight African countries to document the emergence of our characteristic behaviors, including symbolic behavior, long distance social contacts, technological innovation, complex economic strategies, and "living in our heads" with reference to an "imagined community", tribe or nation. I argue that our behavioral capabilities appeared first in Africa and that these capabilities emerged gradually, not in a sudden "mutation event". I also lived with Zun/wasi hunter-gatherers in the Kalahari Desert, to document how their patterns of mobility and debris disposal matched the archaeological patterning of ancient sites in the same region. Recently, I have focused on the development of larger scale social networks in the earliest days of our species using chemical sourcing of the raw materials used for stone tools, I also helped develop new chronometric methods for dating the Pleistocene past (amino acid racemization in ostrich eggshell and optically stimulated luminescence), and co-conducted (with NAS member Piperno) the first research on preservation of starch grains in the dental calculus of Neanderthals and early Homo sapiens as clues to their ancient diets. Currently research on ancient diets with Smithsonian colleagues focusses on the factors affecting stable isotopes of nitrogen as a proxy for dietary composition.

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