Spring 2013 Featured Scholars

Faculty Spotlight: Professor Michael Pietrusewsky

Physical Anthropology of the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and East Asia: A Life’s Work

My research, which now spans nearly five decades, focuses on studies of archaeological human skeletons from the Pacific, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. This work has taken me to museums, universities, and archaeological sites in many different regions of the world. A few of the places I have visited in my work include a recent village massacre site in Vietnam, burial caves in the Trobriand Islands, Okinawa, and Flores Island, and resplendent museums in Paris, Dresden, and elsewhere.

My investigations focus primarily on the health, lifestyle, and biological relationships among the peoples of Australia, Pacific Islands, Southeast Asia, and East Asia. Since 1974, I have been involved with studies of the early Bronze Age skeletons from the Ban Chiang, a site located in northeast Thailand. My research also includes work with some of the earliest Lapita skeletons from sites located in Papua New Guinea, New Caledonia, and Fiji, and biological distance studies that use crania from the Pacific-Asia region. My most recent research concentrates on the earliest Neolithic skeletons from Tainan in Taiwan and skeletons of prehistoric Chamorro from Guam and the Mariana Islands in the western Pacific.

In addition to authoring numerous publications and the recipient of research awards, I serve on the editorial boards of several peer-reviewed journals in physical anthropology and archaeology. I am also a board certified forensic anthropologist who has assisted the medico-legal community in Hawaii and elsewhere.

To learn more about my work, please go to: Faculty Page


Adam Lauer - Ph.D. Candidate

"The Early and Middle Neolithic of the Taiwan Strait: Gene Flow Associated with Cultural Introductions"

The earliest Neolithic on the island of Taiwan was introduced from the southeast coast of China, but the relationships among the peoples of these areas are unknown. My dissertation examines biological relationships at the initial Neolithic introduction on Taiwan, and subsequent gene flow around the Taiwan Strait, using cranial and dental morphology from 7,000-4,500 year old skeletons associated with several of these cultures. I have also recorded indicators of dental health from these skeletons to better understand the health consequences of the subsistence activities of these groups. Trips to several areas of China and Taiwan over the past few years have given me the opportunity to see and experience these countries in an exciting and unique way.

Recently I joined the Ifugao Archaeological Project (IAP), as part of an international team. I will attempt to examine changing patterns of health and disease through time associated with shifting subsistence strategies, work on identifying patterns of endogamous or exogamous marriage, and try to help the rest of the team record changing land use patterns as different cultural influences impacted the Ifugao.

Avalon Coley - Undergraduate

2012 Carol Eastman Award Recipient

My Experience at Koobi Fora, Kenya

This past summer I attended the Koobi Fora field school for budding paleoanthropologists in the Turkana region of Kenya. Our 7-week program began at Mugie Ranch. By understanding the living landscape, we were better able to imagine the terrain in which our own primitive ancestors took their first bipedal steps. From the ranch we drove for two full days heading north toward the Koobi Fora base camp, an area that has yielded numerous paleoanthropological and archaeological discoveries. We performed excavation work, experimental analyses, survey work, and even got to meet and work with the local Dassanech people in Ileret. We saw lions, survived floods, bonded with professionals over bowls of baked beans, and almost literally walked in the footsteps of our ancestors. Not only did I gain a wealth of knowledge pertaining to paleoanthropology, I got the chance to see how research is conducted, to live in the field, which led me to the realization that this is definitely what I want to do for a living.