My research program is entitled RAPP (Research in Asian Paleoanthropology Program), with the focus on developing a deeper understanding of the eastern Asian human evolutionary record, particularly in its biotic setting (www.asianprehistory.org). Thus, my research is multi-disciplinary in nature and involves paleoanthropologists, vertebrate paleontologists, archaeologists, geologists, geneticists, and dating specialists from eastern Asia, North America, and Europe. By using a multi-disciplinary approach, we are developing models to reconstruct Quaternary hominin lifeways and filling in gaps in the eastern Asian paleoanthropological record. The primary projects I am currently involved with are:
- Field and laboratory research in Korea and southern China. We are conducting surveys and excavations of cave and open-air sites that potentially contain paleoanthropological residues in the form of hominin body and/or trace (hominin modified bone, manuports, lithics) fossils. These regions were chosen as starting points because a diversity of evidence indicates they served as hominin migration corridors throughout the Quaternary.
- Vertebrate Taphonomy. I use vertebrate taphonomy to address questions related to reconstructing the nature of hominin-carnivore interactions during the Early and Middle Pleistocene, the evolution of modern human behavior, megafaunal extinctions, and changing human diet breadth during the Pleistocene-Holocene transition in East Asia. In particular, I am involved with a series of taphonomic studies of Middle-Late Pleistocene and Holocene faunal assemblages in China, Japan, and Korea. My collaborators and I are also developing experimental taphonomic studies.
- Geometric Morphometrics. I use geometric morphometrics to study in more detail the morphological variation in Quaternary hominin teeth and bone fossils from eastern Asia. These studies have been contributing to a better understanding of hominin evolution in this region. In particular, I am studying the evidence for the replacement of, transition of, and/or admixture between Homo erectus and modern H. sapiens in eastern Asia. My collaborators and I are studying Quaternary fossils from Korea and southern China to address these questions. We are also expanding our research to investigate morphological variation between and among different modern human populations in eastern Asia.
- Movius Line. In the 1940s, the eminent archaeologist Hallam Movius observed that bifacially-worked stone implements are present in much of the western Old World, but absent in eastern Asia during the Pleistocene. This observation came to be known as the Movius Line. Since Movius made this interesting observation, bifaces have been found in several different places in eastern Asia. However, for the most part, these handaxes, cleavers, and picks are rarer in terms of the number of sites and the number of implements excavated from these sites than in regions like South Asia and East Africa. Furthermore, the handaxes in eastern Asia are morphologically different, often produced on local river cobbles, they tend to be thicker with fewer flakes knocked off. My colleagues and I are working on further analyzing the nature of this variability.