Jamie L. Clark
Office: 312 Bunnell
Email: jlclark7@ alaska.edu
I have strong interests and experience in both Paleolithic archaeology and biological anthropology. My primary research involves the use of evolutionary and ecological frameworks to study behavioral and biological evolution during the Later Pleistocene. It has often been argued that the success and spread of modern humans after ~50,000 years ago was due to a series of key behavioral shifts that conferred particular adaptive advantages—in other words, it was the evolution of modern behavior that allowed them to out-compete archaic populations such as the Neanderthals. And yet, particularly during the African Middle Stone Age (MSA), some of these behaviors see only patchy expression across time and space. What were the factors that rendered “modern” behaviors advantageous in some contexts but not in others? Furthermore, a growing body of data indicates that late Neanderthal populations were themselves capable of significant behavioral complexity. It has thus become clear that gaining a deeper understanding of the nature and extent of variability in human behavior during the periods immediately preceding the emergence of a fully modern cultural system is a matter of particular importance.
I primarily address these issues through the analysis of animal bones, focusing on:
1) The ways in which evidence for prehistoric food procurement and processing strategies can be utilized to enhance our understanding of modern behavioral origins
2) Teasing apart the potential relationships between environmental/demographic change and the shifts in material culture and subsistence behavior evidenced in the later Pleistocene
To this end, I am currently involved in two projects: first, I am analyzing faunal remains from Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, SouthAfrica), a site with an extensive MSA sequence spanning from the pre-Still Bay (> 75 ka) through the final MSA (~38 ka). I am also part of a team that has recently begun conducting excavations at the Paleolithic site of Mughr el-Hamamah (Ajlun District, Jordan); in addition to participating in the excavations themselves, I serve as the lead faunal analyst for the project.
In addition to this work, I also have a deep interest in—and involvement with—the broader field of bioarchaeology. Much of this work has focused on the classification and cultural context of artificial cranial deformation. However, I am also working with John Speth (U. Michigan) on the analysis of human skeletal remains from two late prehistoric villages in New Mexico—a monograph on this research is in progress.