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Jessica Thompson

Jessica Thompson

Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Yale University


I am a paleoanthropologist/paleoarchaeologist who works primarily in Africa. I lead excavations in Malawi, and I work/have worked on other archaeological projects in Ethiopia, Tanzania, and South Africa. I am most interested in the origins of modern human behavior in Africa, although the project I currently lead in Malawi deals with issues and information mostly available in later time periods (human sociality, human mobility, ancient DNA, etc.). I also work in Ethiopia on the origins of the entry of human ancestors such as Australopithecus/ early Homo into the predatory/omnivorous niche. My primary approaches are archaeological field recovery and zooarchaeology - analysis of animal bones from archaeological sites. However, in doing these various projects I have acquired working knowledge of a wide range of analytical approaches used in the paleosciences (isotopes, ancient DNA, bioarchaeology, dating, lithic analysis, etc.).

I did my B.S. at the University of New Mexico (2000) and my M.Phil at the University of Cambridge (2002). I was a postdoc for six years at the University of Queensland in Australia (2009-2014), and then an Assistant Professor of Anthropology for four years at Emory University (2015-2018). I have been an Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Yale for two years now, and I am very interested in public outreach and science dissemination.

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From This Author


How Early Humans Used Fire to Permanently Change the Landscape Millennia Ago

Fields of rust-colored soil, spindly cassava, small farms and villages dot the landscape. Dust and smoke blur the mountains visible beyond massive Lake Malawi. Here in tropical Africa, you can’t escape the signs of...

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