I am a zooarchaeologist interested in reconstructing the behaviors of early modern Homo sapiens and Neandertals, and what they tell us about the origins and worldwide dispersals of our species. In these efforts, I currently focus on two geographic regions: Africa and Europe. To investigate the origins of modern human behavior, I am working with a team of specialists led by Dr. Curtis Marean at the site of Pinnacle Point located on the southern coast of South Africa. South Africa might be the place where all humans living today originated, and Pinnacle Point documents some of the earliest evidence for modern behavior such as the exploitation of shellfish and sophisticated heat-treating of stone tools. I am involved with studying the hunting and butchery behaviors of the site’s occupants and am using isotopic geochemistry to help reconstruct mobility patterns and social networks.
Neandertals were the last archaic peoples to survive and overlap in time with modern humans. Unlike our own species, Neandertals evolved in Europe, but they disappeared by 40,000 years ago, and understanding their disappearance is a longstanding question in paleoanthropology. To understand how Neandertal behavior may have differed from modern humans I also co-lead excavations at the site of Arma Veirana in northwestern Italy. Our excavations at Arma Veirna have uncovered Neandertal artifacts probably deposited shortly before they went extinct. The site thus provides us with an opportunity to compare Neandertal behaviors with those of modern humans who used the cave later in time. Our focus is on reconstructing the ecology to understand how Neandertals and early modern humans were using the site, and the excavation opens a window into the lives of these hominins at the end of the Ice Age. Our research in Italy is funded by grants from the National Geographic Society and the University of Colorado Denver.
Each year, CU Denver students are selected to participate in fieldwork at Pinnacle Point and Arma Veirana. Students rotate between excavating, running the total station (which takes 3D coordinate data for the artifacts), and helping to curate the collection, thus providing them with valuable experience in the modern methods of Paleolithic archaeology.
See Dr. Hodgkins' faculty profile