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Biological Anthropology

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Dr. Ian Tattersall with lemur
Propithecus tattersalli


Dr. Ian Tattersall is currently Curator Emeritus of Biological Anthropology in the Division of Anthropology of the American Museum of Natural History in New York City. Born in England and raised in East Africa, he has carried out both primatological and paleontological fieldwork in countries as diverse as Madagascar, Vietnam, Surinam, Yemen and Mauritius.

Trained in archaeology and anthropology at Cambridge, and in geology and vertebrate paleontology at Yale, Tattersall has concentrated his research since the 1960s in three main areas: the analysis of the human fossil record and its integration with evolutionary theory, the origin of human cognition, and the study of the ecology and systematics of the lemurs of Madagascar.

His current major research interest lies in systematics within the genus Homo and in the origin of modern human cognition as it relates to more general patterns of innovation in the hominid family.

Tattersall is also a prominent interpreter of human paleontology to the public, with several trade books to his credit, among them Paleontology: A brief History of Life (2010), The World From Beginnings to 4000 BCE(2008), Human Origins: What Bones and Genomes Tell Us About Ourselves (with Rob DeSalle, 2007), The Monkey in the Mirror (2002), Extinct Humans (with Jeffrey Schwartz, 2000), Becoming Human: Evolution and Human Uniqueness (1998), The Last Neanderthal: The Rise, Success and Mysterious Extinction of Our Closest Human Relatives (1995; rev. 1999) and The Fossil Trail: How We Know What We Think We Know About Human Evolution (1995; 2nd. ed. 2009) as well as several articles in Scientific American and the co-editorship of the definitive Encyclopedia of Human Evolution and Prehistory .

He lectures widely at venues around the world, and, as curator, has also been responsible for several major exhibits at the American Museum of Natural History, including Ancestors: Four Million Years of Humanity(1984); Dark Caves, Bright Visions: Life In Ice Age Europe (1986); Madagascar: Island of the Ancestors(1989); The First Europeans: Treasures from the Hills of Atapuerca (2003); the highly acclaimed Hall of Human Biology and Evolution (1993), and most recently the successor Hall of Human Origins (2007).

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