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Indiana University Bloomington
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Department of Anthropology College of Arts and Sciences
One Discipline, Four Fields

Kevin D. Hunt

Kevin

Professor, Anthropology Department
Adjunct Professor, Biology
Director, Human Origins and Primate Evolution Lab
Affiliate, CRAFT
Affiliate Faculty, William R. Adams Zooarchaeology Lab

CV

The Semliki Chimpanzee Project Website

(812) 855-3857 | Email | Office Hours

  • Ph.D. in Anthropology, University of Michigan (1989)
  • M.A. in Anthropology, University of Michigan (1982)
  • B.A. in Anthropology College Scholars, University of Tennessee, Knoxville (1980)

Geographical Areas of Specialization: Africa

Topical Interests: Functional Morphology and Ecology of Hominids and Apes

Profile

Since we can never study our ancestors directly, we must rely on their traces to understand them. The earliest members of our lineage, the australopithecines, are quite ape-like, which means that we must turn to chimpanzees and other nonhuman primates for hints about how they behaved, and why human evolution took its peculiar course.

In my research I use what I learn from chimpanzee locomotion, posture and ecology to better understand what led humans to diverge from apes, in particular, what advantage bipedalism gave our chimpanzee-like ancestors some 5 million years ago.

I attempt to link specific anatomical features in chimpanzees and australopithecines with specific behaviors. I use these links to trace the path of human evolution, particularly through reconstruction of their foraging habits. In my research muscular and skeletal form are treated as engineering problems, and the "design" of the animal is treated as a solution to the need to perform a particular activity (e.g., running, arm-hanging). Ecological study is linked because the body (teeth, jaws, hands, limbs ­ even brain) is really a food-getting machine. Once a secure link between a particular behavior or dietary item and an anatomical feature is made, we can turn this link back on the fossils and reconstruct their behavior. In short, our ancestors' bodies can be understood as complicated machines oriented toward certain tasks.

Selected Publications

2010 W.C. McGrew, L.F. Marchant, C. Payne, T. Webster & K.D. Hunt. Chimpanzees at Semliki Ignore Oil Palms. PANAfrica News 17(2): 19-21.

R.R. Patrick, D. Patrick and K.D. Hunt. Long term changes at the Toro-Semliki Wildlife Reserve. In:Long Term changes in Africa’s Rift Valley: impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem, A.J. Plumptre (ed.) NOVA Science Publishers.