Sheela Athreya

Grant Type

Post PhD Research Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Texas A&M U.

Grant number

Gr. 9583

Approve Date

April 13, 2018

Project Title

Athreya, Dr. Sheela, Texas A&M U., Austin, TX - To aid research on 'A Multidisciplinary Study of Early Homo Sapiens in India: Re-evaluating 'Anatomical Modernity''

Preliminary abstract: Current models of Homo sapiens evolution are built primarily on the fossil records from Africa and Europe, due in part to the relative dearth of well-dated, well-preserved fossils dating to the Late Pleistocene in eastern Eurasia. As a result, these models tend to be heavily weighted in favor of the biological and behavioral patterns found in the western Old World. In order to achieve a more accurate picture of the evolutionary history of our species, additional data from Asia are needed. In this project, a multidisciplinary team of paleoanthropologists, archaeologists and geneticists will examine the remains from two sites in India that have yielded the earliest known H. sapiens there. At Jwalapuram in South India, fragmentary and partially cremated hominin remains were excavated from securely-dated Late Pleistocene levels of a rock shelter. At Bhimbetka in Central India, a series of burials found in association with Middle and Upper Paleolithic tools were carefully excavated in the 1970s and described but not directly dated or fully reconstructed. This project will 1) directly date the remains and establish a solid chronological framework for both hominins and Paleolithic artifacts; 2) analyze the morphological affinities of the skeletal remains; 3) extract and analyze ancient (a)DNA from the specimens and 4) correlate the genetic and morphological affinities with the lithic typology. The results will elucidate the evolutionary processes that shaped the morphology, genomes and material culture in South Asia in the Late Pleistocene. This integrative approach to understanding human evolution in a relatively poorly understood region will contribute to a greater awareness of the regionally variable patterns that characterized early H. sapiens throughout the Old World.