Exploring Humanity’s Technological Origins

Date: 

Wednesday, April 6, 2022, 6:00pm to 7:00pm

Location: 

Online

Speaker Sonia Harmand, excavating at a dig site.
Free Virtual Public Lecture

Sonia F. Harmand, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, Turkana Basin Institute, Stony Brook University; Director, Mission Préhistorique au Kenya/West Turkana Archaeological Project

Advance Registration Required.

Human evolutionary scholars have long assumed that the earliest stone tools were made by members of the genus Homo, approximately 2.4–2.3 million years ago, and that this technological development was directly linked to climate change and the spread of savannah grasslands. In the last decade, fieldwork in West Turkana, Kenya, has revealed evidence of much earlier technological behavior. Sonia Harmand will discuss the discovery of stone tools in a 3.3-million-year-old archaeological site in Kenya known as Lomekwi 3. She will show how this discovery is reshaping our understanding of the emergence of human-like manipulative capabilities, as well as the development of cognition in early hominins—the group consisting of modern humans and all our immediate ancestors.

Hallam L. Movius, Jr. Lecture

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About the Speaker

Sonia Harmand is a French archaeologist who studies the origins of hominin technology in the African Early Stone Age. She received her PhD from the University of Paris 10 where she was associated with the "Prehistory and Technology" research unit, well known in the field of stone tool analysis. She worked as a Research Scientist at CNRS in France for four years before joining Stony Brook University and the Turkana Basin Institute in New York as an associate professor. She has conducted fieldwork and specialist lithic analysis for over 25 years in France, Syria, Djibouti, Ethiopia, and Kenya. Since 2012, she has been the codirector of the West Turkana Archaeological Project. In 2011, she and her team discovered the world’s oldest stone tools at the site of Lomekwi 3 in the Turkana Basin of Kenya. With her team, she is still conducting fieldwork at Lomekwi every summer. She additionally collaborates with primate archaeologists to investigate the central role that percussive activities such as pounding and battering might have played for hominins at the dawn of technology. She is also involved in research projects exploring the role of biomechanics in stone tool production. In 2015, Harmand won both the Stone Age Institute Award for Outstanding Research into Human Origins, and the Field Discovery Award from the Shanghai Archaeology Forum for her work with the Lomekwi 3 tools. In 2016, she earned the Prix La Recherche archaeology award in Paris, France. In 2017, she was named one of the 50 Most Influential French by the French edition of Vanity Fair magazine. Harmand is committed to teaching and mentoring students from diverse backgrounds. Recently she became an adjunct professor at the newly established Turkana University College in Kenya where she is building more mentoring relationships and providing a pathway of scientific opportunities for the new generation of Kenyan scholars interested in anthropology and in paleoscience.