Jamie L. Clark

Office: 312 Bunnell
Phone: 907-474-5911
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 so-called “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 later human evolution 
  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 a number of projects in both southern Africa and the Near East. I have been engaged in research at the site of Sibudu Cave (KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa) since 2005. Sibudu has an extensive MSA sequence spanning from a period known as the pre-Still Bay (> 75 ka) through the final MSA (~38 ka). While I am no longer collecting data at Sibudu, I am still working on writing up the results of my 10+ years of work at the site. In May 2018, I returned to South Africa to begin analyzing fauna from the Middle and Later Stone Age site of Border Cave; the long sequence (spanning more than 100,000 years!) provides a key opportunity to explore how humans adapted to climatic change during this key period in the later evolution of our species. 

I am also engaged in two projects in the Near East. Since 2010, I have been part of a team working at the Upper Paleolithic site of Mughr el-Hamamah (Ajlun District, Jordan); I serve as the lead faunal analyst for the project. In 2015, I also joined an international team working at the Middle and Upper Paleolithic site of Sefunim Cave (Mt. Carmel region, Israel). 

UAF undergraduates have been involved in research in both regions; I have taken students to both South Africa (in 2014) and Israel (in 2017)—both were funded by UAF’s Undergraduate and Scholarly Research Activity office. 

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.