Early Humans, Coastal Economy Focus of Termini Lecture

Dr. Curtis Marean will present his research on the evolution of early modern humans and coastal adaptation in South Africa on Thursday, March 3, at the 2011 Ben and Trudy Termini Distinguished Anthropologist Lecture.

The lecture, which will be held at 7 p.m. in the School of Architecture Auditorium, is presented by the Department of Sociology and Anthropology.

Marean (Arizona State University) is the associate director of the Institute for Human Origins and has spent more than two decades looking at how early humans evolved in Africa. Dr. Naomi Cleghorn, Assistant Professor at UT Arlington and a fellow anthropologist, said she is excited about Marean’s upcoming visit.

“His research is some of the most important work going on in early human evolution research,” she said. “He’s addressing where modern human behavior comes from and when it arrives. This includes our tendency toward developing complex technology [and] inserting symbolic value into material culture. When did that start? That’s a key question.”

Cleghorn said Marean’s target research area in Africa has evidence from more than 150,000 years ago — a significant starting point in the evolution of humanity.

“The site he’ll talk about is the place where the oldest evidence for complex behavior can be found,” she said. “There’s a whole package of material that indicates social relationships, symbolic behavior and examples of coastal exploitation.”

Marean is scheduled to review how Homo sapiens moved from the extremely dry areas of inner Africa toward the coast and established economies that integrated inland and  coastal resources. Through a study of climate, environment and paleoanthropology, Marean and his team are developing a picture of people who moved to the coast in small populations and eventually developed a worldview in which the sea became economically and symbolically important.

Cleghorn said Marean is one of a number of world-class anthropologists who have visited UT Arlington since the Termini lecture series was established in 2000. She said not only will UTA students benefit from the visit, but students and faculty from area universities and colleges are also scheduled to attend the lecture.

“It’s noteworthy that we are able to attract world-class researchers to UT Arlington,” she said. “It’s great for us because we’re able to bring people from local colleges and there’s an exchange of ideas during the lecture.”

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