John Shea (paleoanthropologist)

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John Shea and Gerbil Chippy

John Joseph Shea (born May 9, 1960 in Hamilton , Massachusetts ) is an American archaeologist and paleoanthropologist who specializes in experimental archeology . Shea is a professor at the Department of Anthropology at Stony Brook University in New York State .


John Shea grew up as the eldest of three sons in a working class family in eastern Massachusetts. His biology teacher encouraged him to go to college after teaching himself the technique of working flint in high school . He then studied archeology and anthropology at Boston University and received his bachelor's degree in 1982 . After that, Shea moved to the Harvard University , where he in 1991 the master's degree earned in field anthropology and in the same year and the doctoral degree with a dissertation on The Behavioral Significance of Levantine Mousterian Industrial Variability. During his studies, he deepened his knowledge of making stone tools and thus became an expert in experimental archeology.

Since 2010 he has been a full professor at Stony Brook University. He is also part of the research team at the Turkana Basin Institute in Kenya .


Among other things, John Shea analyzed stone spearheads in the style of the Levallois technique in standardized test arrangements in order to reconstruct their optimal shape. As early as 1987/88 he had demonstrated in experiments that it was possible to reconstruct whether projectile points were used as hunting weapons in the Paleolithic on the basis of traces of use and breakpoints .

Since 2000, John Shea has been researching the remains of a population of early anatomically modern humans ( Homo sapiens ) in the valley of the Omo River in southern Ethiopia , whose fossils were first described scientifically in 1969. These finds, known as Omo 1 and Omo 2, were initially dated to an age of around 130,000 years; As part of the research project co-designed by Shea, however, an age of 190,000 to 200,000 years was determined, which makes them the oldest known finds of Homo sapiens . By comparing the stone tools discovered in the layers of Omo 1 and 2 with much more recent tool finds , Shea deduced that "the first H. sapiens had a cognitive faculty about 200,000 years ago that was completely equivalent to our present day." Long-held hypothesis by other paleoanthropologists that there was a gradual process of modernization during the Middle Paleolithic .

Literature (selection)

  • Stone Tools in Human Evolution: Behavioral Differences among Technological Primates , Cambridge University Press, 2017. ISBN 978-1-107-55493-1
  • Stone Tools in the Paleolithic and Neolithic of the Near East: A Guide , Cambridge University Press, New York 2013. ISBN 978-1-107-00698-0
  • with John G. Fleagle et al. (Ed.): Out of Africa I: The First Hominin Colonization of Eurasia , Springer Verlag, 2010. ISBN 978-90-481-9035-5
  • with Ghufran Sabri Ahmad: Reconstructing Late Pleistocene Human Behavior in the Jordan Valley: The Middle Paleolithic Stone Tool Assemblage from Ar Rasfa. Archaeopress (British Archaeological Reports International Series, S2042), Oxford (UK) 2009. ISBN 978-1-4073-0618-6
  • with Daniel E. Lieberman (Ed.): Transitions in Prehistory: Essays in Honor of Ofer Bar-Yosef , David Brown / Oxbow, Oakville (CT), 2009. ISBN 978-1-84217-340-4
Articles in trade journals

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Curriculum vitae JJ Shea. ( Memento from October 1, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) ( MS Word ; 179 kB), dump from April 1, 2013
  2. ^ Websites of the Turkana Basin Institute
  3. ^ John Shea et al .: Experimental Tests of Middle Palaeolithic Spear Points Usinga Calibrated Crossbow. In: Journal of Archaeological Science. Volume 28, 2001, pp. 807-816, doi: 10.1006 / jasc.2000.0590
  4. ^ John J. Shea: On Accuracy and Relevance in Lithic Use-Wear Analysis. In: Lithic Technology. Volume 16, 1987, pp. 44-50.
  5. ^ John J. Shea: Spear Points from the Middle Paleolithic of the Levant. In: Journal of Field Archeology. Vol. 15, No. 4, 1988, pp. 441-450.
  6. Michael Herbert Day : Early Homo sapiens Remains from the Omo River Region of South-west Ethiopia: Omo Human Skeletal Remains. In: Nature . Volume 222, 1969, pp. 1135-1138, doi: 10.1038 / 2221135a0
  7. John G. Fleagle , Zelalem Assefa, Francis H. Brown, and John J. Shea: Paleoanthropology of the Kibish Formation, southern Ethiopia: Introduction. In: Journal of Human Evolution. Volume 55, No. 3, 2008, pp. 360-365, doi: 10.1016 / j.jhevol.2008.05.007
  8. Michael Balter: Archaeologist Hammers Away at 'Modern' Behavior. In: Science . Volume 339, No. 6120, 2013, pp. 642–643, doi: 10.1126 / science.339.6120.642
  9. John J. Shea: Homo sapiens Is as Homo sapiens Was. Behavioral Variability versus “Behavioral Modernity” in Paleolithic Archeology. In: Current Anthropology 52.1 (2011) 1-35, doi: 10.1086 / 658067 , full text