I am a paleoanthropologist exploring the human past and our relationships to extinct fossil relatives. Here on the front page, I feature the latest scientific work coming out of my laboratory and collaborations worldwide.

Cover page of Accurate depiction of uncertainty in ancient DNA research

Accurate depiction of uncertainty in ancient DNA research: The case of Neandertal ancestry in Africa

John Hawks. Journal of Social Archaeology 21: 179--196.

In this article, I look at the origin of a myth: the notion that African people do not have any Neandertal DNA. I review the history of ancient DNA research on Neandertals and press statements to understand how this myth arose, and what the real scientific evidence showed at the time.

Link to paper

Cover page of Fostering responsible research on ancient DNA

Fostering responsible research on ancient DNA

Jennifer K. Wagner, Chip Colwell, Katrina G. Claw, Anne C. Stone, Deborah A. Bolnick, John Hawks, Kyle B. Brothers, and Nanibaa’ A. Garrison. American Journal of Human Genetics 107(2): 183--195.

I'm proud to have contributed to this working paper that has been adopted as guidance by the American Society of Human Genetics Board of Directors. As ancient DNA has grown in importance, we must continue to center the collaborations with communities that make it possible to pursue meaningful research about the past. Many thanks especially to Jen Wagner and Nanibaa’ Garrison for their leadership on this issue.

Link to paper

Cover page of Field-based sciences must transform in response to COVID-19

Field-based sciences must transform in response to COVID-19

Eleanor M. L. Scerri, Denise Kühnert, James Blinkhorn, Huw S. Groucutt, Patrick Roberts, Kathleen Nicoll, Andrea Zerboni, Emuobosa Akpo Orijemie, Huw Barton, Ian Candy, Steven T. Goldstein, John Hawks, Khady Niang, Didier N’Dah, Michael D. Petraglia and Nicholas C. Vella. Nature Ecology and Evolution

The COVID-19 pandemic is exposing many structural problems with international scientific funding and collaborations. Most of these problems have been evident for a long time, especially the unsustainability of frequent short-term travel, and the lack of investment in scientific infrastructure and human capital in developing nations. In this article, I worked with many archaeologists, geologists, and other field-based scientists to describe these problems and suggest steps toward solutions.

Link to paper

Sexual dimorphism in gut volume versus pelvic outlet size in men and women, from Uy et al. 2020

Sexual dimorphism of the relationship between the gut and pelvis in humans

Jeanelle Uy, John Hawks, and Caroline VanSickle. American Journal of Physical Anthropology e24084.

Many researchers in human evolution have been interested in the idea that early hominins may have had large guts for digesting poor-quality diets. They have thought that the large pelvis size of hominins like Australopithecus afarensis might reflect gut size, because the pelvis supports the gut in bipeds like humans. But almost nobody had looked to see whether pelvis size gives any predictive value about gut size in humans or other primates. Jeanelle's research shows that in men the pelvis-gut size relation is entirely explained by body size, with no significant relationship in women. In fact men and women vary in opposite directions, which puts the idea of estimating ancient hominin gut sizes in a different light.

Link to paper

Cover image of Deane-Drummond and Fuentes 2020.

On Homo naledi and its significance in evolutionary anthropology.

John Hawks and Lee R. Berger. In Deane-Drummond, Celia and Agustín Fuentes (editors), Theology and Evolutionary Anthropology: Dialogues in Wisdom, Humility and Grace, pp. 51--68. Routledge, New York.

This volume combining the voices of evolutionary scientists and theological thinkers provided an opportunity to consider broader perspectives on human origins and the evolution of culture and sociality. Our chapter discusses a few of the questions that underlie our current research in the Rising Star cave system, including questions about how to understand evidence of behavior in the multi-hominin context of Middle Pleistocene Africa.

About the book (Routledge)

Excavation image of tibia and fibula of DH 7 in situ with locations of other elements indicated.

Immature remains and the first partial skeleton of a juvenile Homo naledi, a late Middle Pleistocene hominin from South Africa

Debra R. Bolter, Marina C. Elliott, John Hawks, and Lee R. Berger. PLoS ONE 15(4): e0230440.

The Rising Star fossil assemblages provide some of the richest evidence of immature hominin remains, with at least 10 juvenile individuals. In the Dinaledi Chamber, our team is working to reconstruct the puzzle of the site by finding which bones and fragments belong to individual children. This paper describes a partial skeleton with postcranial and mandibular elements. As this evidence continues to build, we will be able to build a solid picture of growth and development in this species.

Link to paper