I am an archaeologist and palaeoanthropologist whose main research has been on understanding the origins of our own species, Homo sapiens sapiens. To this end I have conducted research in France and multiple African countries to document the emergence of our characteristic behavioral patterns, including symbolic behavior, long distance social contacts, technological innovation, complex economic strategies, and, in general “living in our heads”, -- creating a social, symbolic and even physical world which guides and is the focus of our daily lives. I have argued that our behavioral capabilities appear first in Africa, well before the time when our species migrated to Eurasia and prevailed over the Neanderthals. I have also demonstrated that the emergence of these capabilities was a gradual process and not due to a sudden “mutation event” for language or any other specific capability. To help determine the age of the new discoveries, I worked on developing new dating techniques, as well as on how climates changed in Africa during the Ice Age.
As a member of the GWU faculty, I have worked throughout my career to develop interdisciplinary initiatives which would bring together faculty from different departments to offer degree programs and classes for students that would encourage them to address issues from different perspectives. These include programs in Museum Studies, Africana Studies, the interdisciplinary archaeology BA Program, the Center for Advanced Study of Human Paleobiology, and University Institutes focussed respectively on Food, and on Mind, Brain and Cognition