JAR Lecture Focuses on Debunking the Human Revolution
October 11, 2011
Categories: Inside UNM
Sally McBrearty, professor and head of the Anthropology Department at the University of Connecticut, will give a lecture on "Debunking the Human Revolution: The Last Ten Years" on Thursday, Oct. 20 at 7:30 p.m. in the Anthropology Lecture Hall, room 163.
In addition to the evening lecture, McBreaty will also present a specialized seminar on "Archaeological & Paleontological Succession of the Middle Pleistocene Kapthurin Formation, Kenya" at noon on Friday, Oct. 21 in Anthropology Room 248.
Was the transition from archaic Homo to modern humans abrupt and relatively recent, or was it gradual and ancient? For more than a century, models of the Middle-Upper Paleolithic transition to "modernity" based on the European record and dominated by the question of the "extinction" of the Neandertals, have stressed the abrupt/recent view.
The African record–until not long ago poorly known, with no Neandertals and a very early appearance of Homo sapiens–now shows that reality was very different, with a long, uneven succession of developments that included the invention during the Middle Stone Age of many of the cultural traits of the much later European Upper Paleolithic, from projectile points to "art" and adornment. Between ca. 200-75,000 years ago, many of the characteristics of the 40-25,000 year-old European Early Upper Paleolithic were already present in the repertoire of humans living in southern, northern & eastern Africa.
McBrearty was one of the first researchers to forcefully challenge the Euro-centric view of MP-UP transition in a seminal work, "The Revolution that Wasn't" (with Allison Brookes). That was published as a special issue of the "Journal of Human Evolution" in 2000.
Since then, she has continued to question the dominant model–and she has done so from the standpoint of her own long-time field research in the Kapthurin area of the Rift Valley in Kenya, where she has documented "Upper Paleolithic-like" human behavior some 200,000 years ago.
A title of one of her recent articles says it all about the view of this serious, dynamic archeologist scholar: "Down with the Revolution." She is a leading proponents of cultural continuity in human evolution and the critical role of the African record, not only in the late Pliocene-early Pleistocene, but also in the middle Pleistocene.
Highly successful in obtaining prestigious research grants and a frequent presenter of scientific papers and guest lectures, McBrearty has been publishing steadily since 1978. Besides her work in Kenya, she has also done research in Saudi Arabia and Abu Dhabi.
Both events are sponsored by "The Journal of Anthropological Research." The JAR has been published by UNM since 1945. For information on subscribing, call 277-4544 or visit, Journal of Anthropological Research.
The wheelchair-accessible Anthropology Building is at the W end of the UNM Campus, on Redondo Road between Las Lomas & MLK Blvd. Both events are free & open to the public.