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Wenner-Gren Supported Research in the News

December 13, 2007

Professor Fred Grine (Department of Anthropology, Stony Brook, SUNY) conducts research on the hominid fossil record from Middle Stone Age archaeological sites in southern Africa, focussing on its application to issues surrounding the emergence of modern humans. In 2006 Dr. Grine was awarded a Wenner-Gren grant to support his research on the "Morphological and Morphometric Analysis of the Late Pleistocene Human Skull from Hofmeyr, South Africa."

The analysis of this nearly complete cranium from Hofmeyr, South Africa, dating back to 36.7 kyr is of singular significance for the evolutionary history of modern humans. In this project, Dr Grine and his colleagues address the question of whether morphologically modern humans originated in sub-Saharan Africa and replaced archaic people in other regions or whether these regional, archaic populations contributed to the ancestry of recent people through assimilation, hybridization, or gene flow. Analysis has mostly focused on the genetic evidence, and the Hofmeyr cranium is the first, and to-date the only, direct evidence pertaining to the morphology of a late Pleistocene sub-Saharan population. It is poised to make a substantial contribution to debates over the competing hypotheses of modern human evolution and South African prehistory. Analysis completed so far supports the theory that modern man originated in sub-Saharan Africa and fanned out from there.

The Hofmeyr research was featured as one of Time magazine's top 10 scientific discoveries of 2007. Click here to see the article.