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Anthropological engineering and hominin dietary ecology

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The ingenuity of interdisciplinary research lies in the blending of disparate fields. The admixture of anthropology and engineering (herein, anthroengineering) has acted as a catalyst to solve problems both within and across the fields. In bioanthropology, anthroengineering has been used to tackle problems concerning locomotion, functional bone adaptation, and dietary ecology.

Diet is one of the most important aspects of a primate’s ecology, dictating what type of environment it can survive in, how it interacts with the environment, and what type of energetic budget it can have for activities such as socialization, copulation, and learning. Using engineering and evolutionary anthropology theories and methods together in combination, we have now begun to understand how the cranium, mandible, and teeth have evolved in response to dietary selective pressures. In this talk, I will introduce the field of anthroengineering, and discuss how new methods in shape analysis, dietary mechanical properties, fracture and wear mechanics, and structural analyses have changed our understanding of hominin dietary ecology and human evolution. I will discuss what still needs to be done to refine our understanding of the selective pressures acting on the diet of our hominin ancestors, and how what we have learned here can improve human society today.

This talk is part of the Biological Anthropology Seminar Series series.

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