Prominent anthropologist to speak on evolution of modern human behavior

The Department of Anthropology welcomes Richard Klein as speaker for the Distinguished Lectureship in Archaeology Series

10/10/2012 | By: Megan Akers  |

The University's Department of Anthropology welcomes Richard Klein, a professor of anthropology at Stanford University, as part of the Distinguished Lectureship in Archaeology Series, sponsored by Western Cultural Resource Management, Inc. Klein's presentation, "Out of Africa and the Evolution of Human Behavior," will be at 7 p.m., Oct. 16, in Room 100 of the Jot Travis Building on campus.

"Modern human origins is one of the hottest topics in anthropology," Richard Scott, associate professor and chair of the anthropology department in the College of Liberal Arts, said. "It is fascinating to look at the changes that took place in human behavior and anatomy that propelled us into modernity."

Twenty years ago, a study of mitochondrial DNA popularized the "Out of Africa" concept, which asserts that fully modern humans originated from Africa. Most paleoanthropologists, including Klein, now accept the "Out of Africa" model and believe that fully modern African descendants expanded to replace the Neanderthals and other nonmodern Eurasians.

Klein researches the archaeological and fossil evidence for the evolution of human behavior. He has done fieldwork in Spain and South Africa, where he has been excavating ancient sites since 1969. He has also published numerous books and articles on the behavioral changes that allowed anatomically modern Africans to spread to Eurasia about 50,000 years ago. Klein's presentation will summarize the evidence behind his belief that this abrupt behavior change was prompted by genetic change.

"Dr. Klein is one of the most preeminent archaeologists in the country who specializes in the origins of anatomically modern humans," Scott said. "His lecture will be a great opportunity to expose our students to a prominent researcher that they have read about in books and national articles."

One of Klein's books, The Human Career: Human Biological and Cultural Origins, was used as the text for the department's paleoanthropology class taught in fall 2011.

Klein is a scientific trustee of the Louis Seymour Bazett  Leakey Foundation and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the National Academy of Sciences. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Michigan and his master's and doctorate degrees at the University of Chicago.

The Department of Anthropology brings visiting speakers to the University to provide faculty and students with opportunities to hear different perspectives on the past and foster new ideas between academic institutions. For more information on the Distinguished Lectureship in Archaeology Series, please contact Geoffrey Smith at


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