Churchill Lab


Human paleontologist Steve Churchill studies morphological and behavioral adaptation in archaic and modern humans of the Middle and Late Pleistocene. Through comparative functional-morphological analysis of human fossil remains, coupled with investigation of the archeological record of prehistoric human behavior, he conducts research on the ecology, energetics and adaptive strategies of premodern members;  the evolution of human subsistence strategies across the Middle and Late Pleistocene; the evolution of subsistence technology, especially the origins of true long-range projectile weaponry; and the community ecology of humans and large-bodied carnivores in Pleistocene Europe and Africa.

field study crew


Picture above: Duke Field School in South Africa


Duke University anthropologist Steven Churchill shows replica casts of two specimens of Australopithecus sediba, a new species of hominin being described in the September 8, 2011 edition of Science. These two individuals have been dated at 1.977 million years ago, and have features of both the Australopithecus lineage, like Lucy, and the more modern Homo lineage, which includes us. Their remarkably complete skeletons indicate they ate a better diet and probably made use of stone tools, though their brains are still relatively small. They walked upright, but were still adept at tree-climbing.